Learning to Cope

Fruits and vegetables

After a few months, you’ll realize that you and your family are much more comfortable with the gluten-free diet than you were when you first learned of your child’s diagnosis. A new diagnosis and lifestyle changes are big adjustments.

The celiac disease care team at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health includes a psychologist and a social worker who can help support your child and family as you adjust and cope at home, at school, and in other social settings. They can teach your child coping skills for managing stress and other emotions related to celiac and living with a chronic disease. Communication and coping skills can support your child in feeling better emotionally and physically.

Here are some ideas for coping:

  • Encourage your child and other family members to talk about how celiac disease has impacted your household. Normalize their feelings and thoughts, and assure them that you’re always there to listen. Your behavior sets the tone for managing stress for your child.
  • Speak with your child’s teacher, school nurse, school counselor, and cafeteria manager. Ask for their help in supporting your child. Talk to the families of your child’s friends too, so that they are aware of what your child can eat.
  • You may feel nervous about making all these changes to your child’s diet. That is completely understandable and something most parents feel. Remember, you’re providing good care for your child and showing them how to manage the disease.
  • It might be helpful to learn stress management techniques, such as exercise, hobbies, meditation, or yoga. Prioritize self-care that includes getting enough sleep and setting regular mealtimes.
  • As your child gets older, they will start to make their own food choices. Has your child had celiac disease for a while? If so, they may have the confidence to do this already. If your child is diagnosed as a teenager, they can use learning to eat gluten free as a means of developing independence. Our celiac disease dietitian can support this move to independence.
  • If you need help with communicating your child’s needs to friends, family, and school staff, please reach out to a member of your celiac disease care team. Remember that an effective way to inform school staff of your child’s needs is through a 504 Plan, which our celiac team can assist with.