First, a celiac support group will help you establish for you and your celiac child a network of celiac people who will be there for you in a welcoming, compassionate environment—with gluten-free refreshments, of course. Imagine what it would feel like if you and your child had a circle of friends to get together with for gluten-free dinners, pot-lucks, and bake-offs. You’ll find that you’re on your way to building a circle of supportive celiac friends who will offer friendship and understanding to your family.
Celiac support groups often have gluten-free veterans or offer the collective experiences of the individual members so that you can learn new ways of managing your child’s gluten-free lifestyle. You can learn about gluten-free menus at local restaurants, gluten-free vendors, where to shop for gluten-free fare, and how to cut down the costs of your child’s gluten-free diet. Many groups invite vendors to bring gluten-free products to meetings for the members to sample, and members can buy what they like at a discount and don’t have to pay for shipping.
The most important advantage is probably motivation. Celiac support groups will motivate you and your child to take more responsibility for his diet and health. Getting enough essential nutrients, such as fiber and B vitamins, can be tough with a gluten-free diet. By staying connected with people who are generally motivated to maintain a healthy gluten-free diet, you’ll find that you’ll be willing to go that extra mile for your child, such as giving him vitamin B supplements, and your child will be willing to go that extra mile for his health, for example willingly taking his vitamin B supplements. There were times when I felt overwhelmed by the changes required in my gluten-free diet—and I was an adult—but by connecting to others I stayed motivated. In my celiac advocacy work, I often come across celiac patients who feel like giving up, but after a helpful chat, they find that they’re more willing and able to tackle their dietary challenges. Similarly, you may find that you or your child are able to help others yourselves.
Celiac support groups will help you with all sorts of celiac issues, not just related to maintaining a gluten-free diet. For instance, how will your family survive the holidays gluten-free? How can you celebrate Halloween with your celiac child? How do you explain to babysitters and teachers your child’s gluten-free diet? These are some of the many subjects that your celiac support group friends will be able to help you through.
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.