Birthday parties, summer camp, sleepovers, or even just lunch … the gluten-free diet presents unique challenges for children and their families. We asked Jacqueline Jacques, a California-based naturopathic doctor whose son has celiac disease, for her tips on nurturing a happy gluten-free household.

Get informed, and foster acceptance

At the time of diagnosis, Jacques encourages parents (and children) to meet with qualified professionals such as a registered dietitian or pediatrician who can ease the transition to a gluten-free diet. Check out gluten-free books and resources available at your local library. Against the Grain (Holt, 1996) by Jax Peters Lowell is a must-read for newly diagnosed families, says Jacques.

Rather than sheltering kids from the facts, children should learn as much about their condition as early as possible, Jacques says. Teach them how to read food labels, get them involved in menu planning, and emphasize that they won’t outgrow celiac. “This will go a long way in helping them accept their condition,” says Jacques. No child wants to feel “different”—especially with family. So consider making your entire home a gluten-free zone, recommends Jacques. “There was some heartache at first, but now it’s just part of our family’s lifestyle,” she says.