I am writing to talk to the celiac teenager today. Parents, please feel free to share with a celiac teenager, but you are not my audience on this one. 😉
Being a teenager is a joyous and happy time with some difficulty. Transitioning from being a little kid completely under a parent’s control to gaining more and more freedom. More freedom comes with more responsibility. With celiac disease, the new responsibility is probably greater than a non-celiac peer. So, let’s talk about a few things.
Romance starts to creep into the lives of teens and it is fun! The blush of new crushes and new loves brings some complications having celiac disease.
I’m going to give you a piece of advice that should be followed your entire life regarding romantic relationships. Here it is…. You can fix a bad haircut, bad clothes, and even bad teeth, but you cannot fix @$$hole. (Sorry parents, but this word is the best for this situation.) This mantra comes into greater focus when you look at having celiac.
In other words, someone that won’t support your need for gluten free foods and respect your health, they aren’t the right person for you. Conversely, if someone is really nice and supports your needs, but maybe isn’t the coolest, they might be a better fit!
I know this is really hard. You may feel like you are giving someone up that is really cool, gorgeous, popular, or whatever – it doesn’t matter. Your health is the most important thing in the world and whomever you date should believe that as well. This will be true your entire life, so you might as well start practicing this now.
Also, there are a lot of really cool people out there to date. Dating jerks is a part of growing up, but don’t let it affect your health by compromising your gluten free diet.
As summer starts, first jobs start to come into focus. Simply put, it is going to be better that you find a job that does not involve food for the celiac teenager. Working as a lifeguard, swim instructor, construction, landscaping, golf course attendant, movie theater (most of these are open even with social distancing), or retail.
Babysitting or being a nanny may come with some food issues. If a parent is hiring you to babysit and you are uncomfortable feeding the children gluten, then you should explain the situation to the parent. Let them make the decision to hire you or not. I would not suggest playing with Play-doh or doing macaroni art either.
For your safety, there are ways to be safe around gluten food. The two most important things to stay safe are washing hands with soap often. More importantly, don’t put gluten free food directly on countertops. Always put gluten free food a plate or napkin.
Maintaining a gluten free diet is important for the celiac teenager. It fuels all of your activities – sports, social, jobs, hanging out, all of it! If you are sick from a glutening, you miss out on all those fun things. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being sick, especially from a self-inflicted glutening.
Have a few snacks in a bag in your car or in your purse so that if you are ever hungry, a safe snack isn’t far away. If that isn’t cool enough, there are lots and lots of other foods that you can eat safely that won’t bring attention to celiac – Cheetos, Fritos, M&M’s, coke, and a million other things.
If you aren’t sure about safe snacking, talk to your parents about what you can eat. I know, your parents are dumb, but they might be able to prevent you from getting sick!
And if you tell me you don’t get symptoms, fine, but you probably do. Silent celiac is rare. Symptoms can be anything from constipation, diarrhea, brain fog, fatigue, muscle and bone aches, cystic acne, canker sores, and many, many others.
Sticking up for yourself
Being a teenager is all about fitting in. Having celiac disease makes you inherently different. It just is and this will be true for the rest of your life. You have to learn how to take care of yourself, because nobody else will.
If you are not sure something is gluten free, don’t consume it. Say you aren’t hungry. Say you are too hot. Say you are too cold. Say the sky is too blue today for you to eat or drink something.
I’m going to tell you something – if you say that it is because it has gluten – you get into a whole discussion about how much gluten and a little won’t hurt. You and I both know it will hurt. So, give them some other reason other than it has gluten. They will find it much, much harder to argue.
We all have to learn how to navigate social situations while having celiac with grace is important. We have to learn to make sure that we can stand up for yourself and your needs without being a victim. Understanding that the world is not made for those of us with celiac disease and how to safely live and thrive. We have to learn how to handle jerks in the world that say celiac isn’t a real disease. You have the benefit of learning this information young rather than having to learn as an adult!
Finally, know that adults struggle with many of the issues discussed here. Having celiac disease and living in the world is hard. It is even harder being a teenager and growing up having celiac. But I hope that this gives you some hope that all of the issues are manageable with a lot of communication, a good sense of who you are and what is important, and a bit of giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Tomorrow – I will talk a bit about college. I’m also working on a post for parents regarding school and children!