This article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 edition of Celiac.coms Scott-Free newsletter.
Copyright © 2002 Scott Adams. All rights reserved worldwide.
We parents, admittedly, have some mixed emotions about summer break. We eagerly await the mornings free of chaos and last-minute-I-have-nothing-to-wear tantrums, evenings without battles over homework, and afternoons when kids will have more time to play, and maybe even to help around the house and yard (a mom can dream, cant she?).
But summer break is a catalyst for new battles, such as trying to explain to our kids that yes, it is your summer vacation, and yes, it is supposed to be relaxing, but 16 hours of television is still too much. The first few days are what I call freebies. We all enjoy the lack of structure, allowing our little ones to sleep as long as theyd like (but why is it that on school days they whine that they could have slept until noon, and during summer break theyre up at the crack of dawn?), and even buying into the oh-so-well-presented argument that this is just the first (second, third) day of vacation, and its the only day theyll watch TV all summer—promise! Energized by the contagious enthusiasm of summer break, we pack weeks worth of fun into the first few days, and revel in every minute of family freedom.
And then...by about day four...you hear those dreaded two words that can, in and of themselves, induce critically high blood-pressure levels faster than anchovies on crackers: Im bored!
Most parents go into the summer with good intentions and the best-laid plans for staving off the boredom blues. Fun-but-educational math and science workbooks, fun family fitness programs, and a well-stocked arts and crafts cabinet can sound like a good idea, but kids (and adults!) just want to have fun. The difference is that adults have responsibilities and obligations, and cant usually put our lives on hold for three months. They, however, can—and should.
But my kids are gluten-free....
Oh, good point. That just means you may have to be a smidge more creative, but basically, if your child cant eat gluten, your options for battling boredom are just the same as everyone elses. Yep. Just the same. You may have to be a little more creative, and youll undoubtedly need to spend time educating those around you. But its well worth the time and energy to provide your child with some of lifes greatest summer experiences and memories.
You may want to consider summer camps. Both day and away camps offer tremendous opportunities and experiences. There are some wonderful specialty camps for celiac kids, but dont feel that your options are limited to those. Do you think its too hard because of your childs diet? Think again!
Day Camps/Away Camps—Gluten-Freedom!
Sending your child away to camp is difficult. Oh—dont misunderstand me—its not difficult because of the diet. Its saying good-bye thats the hard part!
Whether you choose day camps or away camps is up to you. From a dietary standpoint, the concept is the same. You may want to take all the worry out of it and send your child to a camp specially designed for celiac kids. Three are listed at the end of this article. But dont think youre limited to specialty camps. You can send them to any camp if you keep a few important things in mind:
- Educate the counselors/cooks in advance.
If possible, meet with the head counselor in person to discuss your childs dietary requirements. Ideally, you should meet with the nutritional director or chef, too. Youll probably be surprised at how receptive they are. Most camps are accustomed to accommodating conditions such as diabetes or severe allergies, and are glad to learn the intricacies of the gluten-free diet.
Make sure you give them plenty of time to make arrangements for your childs dietary needs. Meet several weeks in advance so they can plan, prepare, understand, and adapt menus. Remember to discuss preparation techniques, so they understand how to avoid cross-contamination during preparation and serving.
Send reference information.
Make sure the counselors and cooks have printed copies of safe and forbidden food lists. They can be found at Celiac.com, or send them with a copy of Kids with Celiac Disease. These resources will be important if there are questions about ingredients or special treats, and if they take the time to read more about celiac disease, you will have educated someone on the subject, and that is also important.
Make sure your child understands his diet.
If youve read Kids with Celiac Disease or heard me speak, you know that Im a downright nag when it comes to giving your child control of his diet. Its crucial! But in this case, its also key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable camp experience. Remember, if you dont give your child control of his diet, his diet may control him.
Dont rely upon the camp to provide specialty gluten-free foods like bread and pasta. Theyre expensive and difficult to get, but more importantly, its not up to others to accommodate your childs diet (another "nagging point" of mine). Be sure to send mixes for cookies, brownies, and other treats, if they have the facilities to prepare them. These days, the specialty mixes you can buy are so good that your childs treats are likely to be the hit of the camp.
More than simply a great way to beat the summertime boredom blues, sending your child to camp can be a huge growing-up experience. Oh—and the kids will do some growing up, too!