For those of us whose kids are fully verbal and sentient beings by the time we discover their food restrictions, the challenges are as much emotional as they are culinary. As with all things, your kids will be looking to you to see whether their new dietary saga is a drama or a comedy. Of all the tips we could give you, in our experience this right here is the most important thing you can do: stay positive - even when you're brain is scrambling at a hundred miles an hour to figure out what the dickens are you going to put in front of them for dinner tonight, or panicking about how to keep them safe.
How? Here are some of the rules we rely on:
1. If your child is on an elimination diet to narrow down their restrictions, remind your child, like every day, that this is a "win-win."
What? All these restrictions are some sort of a bonus?
Absolutely! If the elimination diet works, your child wins because the offending symptoms go away, whether they be stomachaches, blue moods, headaches, exhaustion or what-have-you. If the challenge fails, they still win - because they get to have back all those foods.
2. Help your child focus on what they can eat, rather than on what they can't.
Sit down together and make a list of all the yummy things they like for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack that are still okay under their new diet rules. Make a special date out of going to the grocery store together - just to find new brands and products they've never tried but might yet enjoy. Encourage them to treat the foods they can have as a box of crayons, to be arranged and complimented as they like.
3. Make it very, very clear to your child that you are on the case.
Kids are notoriously bad at handling uncertainty, most especially when confronted with their parents' own limitations. If you've just gotten the word from your child's pediatrician that they have a life-threatening allergy or celiac disease, chances are your marching orders are pretty clear: never, not ever can your child touch a certain food or foods again.
On the other hand, if you are just embarking on a to try and figure out what might be causing those stomach aches, that growth slump or those holy-cow-where-did-that-come-from tantrums, chances are you yourself have more questions than answers right now. Trust us - we've been there. Oh, how we've been there!
But here's what we learned: as long as we were consistent about telling our intrepid food explorer that we were on it - that his problem was our problem and we just plain refused to give up until we'd figured it out - he was willing to continue to go along. Through a low-fructose-only diet. Through a top-8 elimination diet. Through a FODMAPs diet. And ultimately through the incredibly challenging low-histamine diet that ultimately eliminated the tantrums & the stomach aches while increasing his cognitive functioning to an extent that even his proud parents can hardly believe.
Turns out "I've got you, baby" are some of the most powerful words in the English language.