I have discussed traveling gluten-free for teens and school lunches for kids/teens. Now it is time to talk life. By life I mean day-to-day living – hanging out with friends, going to movies or the mall – teenager stuff. As your child grows, it is impossible to be in control of their every meal. It is for this reason that I started teaching Jon, from when he was diagnosed, about what he can & can’t eat. I have given him every tool possible to make safe food choices while he is away from home.
Jon frequently spends the night at different friends’ houses. I try to feed him before sending him over to eliminate part of the need for food while he is there or away from home. Some parents call me or I will call them to see what they have planned. It all really just depends on the time of day that Jon will be with them and for how long he will be gone. I can usually tell right away who gets it and who doesn’t. Yes, I could show up, Triumph Dining Cards in hand, and sit down to teach a gluten-free diet class, but my son may run away if I were to attempt that. My next best weapon is Jon. I teach him and prepare him. I ask what they are doing & supply necessary snacks. If they are just hanging out at home I might just send along some cookies, baked goods or popcorn (before braces). I will also pack a Carnation Instant Breakfast – only requires a glass of milk or a Think Thin bar. Small things, but they will definitely tide him over until I can get him home in the morning (which is really afternoon in the teen world). Jon is really good with reading labels & if he chooses not to call attention to himself, he just goes without. He doesn’t starve. If he is hungry, he always knows he can have a glass of milk or orange juice. Eggs are another good “staple” that most people have in their kitchens.
If Jon and his buddies head out the to movies or the mall, things can get a little more complicated, but I have learned to sit back & watch to see how he navigates on his own. Jon is aware of what candy he can eat and what drinks he can have at the movie theater. There are so many choices at the theater, that finding something that is gluten-free has never been a problem for him. He does not eat the popcorn (not only due to his braces, but it is too hard to verify ingredients). When they go to the mall, there is a food court and Chick-fil-A is one of the places Jon knows he can get something safe. Jon even chose a salad the last time he was there!
I think there has really only been 1 or 2 times that we have had difficulty in feeding Jon while he was gone with his friends and that was when he went to a local amusement/water park. Most of these places have strict rules in place about bringing food into their parks and search patrons upon entering. I have copies made up of a letter from Jon’s doctor with his diagnosis & the need for him to follow a strict gluten-free diet outlined in it. I always send this along with Jon when he goes to places like this. I just pack it right along in his lunch box or cooler that I pack his food in. He has had several of these outings now with no trouble at all bringing the food in.
Coming up in May, Jon will be taking a trip to Washington DC with his school. I have already talked with the tour coordinators & they assure me that other gluten-free teens have successfully gone on this trip. I will make sure to write up a report on how it all goes when Jon returns.