When Your Gluten-Free Kid is Invited to a Party

by contributing writer Janelle of Gluten Freely Frugal

Does your heart sink every time your gluten-free kid brings home a party invitation? Kayla gets so excited every time she is invited to a sleepover or a birthday party, but I know that I now have to make contact with the parent and glean information.

Gluten-Free Kids

What will be served? What can I bring that would be comparable? Would there be a way to allow my child to have an alternative meal without bringing excessive attention to my child?

And I will need to go about it in such a way that I don’t come across as rude, entitled, ungrateful, or overprotective, or in a way that will alienate that child from a future friendship with my child. Yikes!

But it doesn’t have to be scary. If you already know the parent, they probably already know the limitations and you can easily work out an alternative. Many people are willing to work with dietary issues, as they are becoming more and more common, so hopefully you won’t encounter anyone too uncooperative or rude.

Of course, if this is a new friend, then you have to tread a bit more carefully.

Birthday Party

Tips for Handling Party Invitations

Start on a Positive Note

If there is an email address on the invitation, I sit down that day and email the parent. That way they have plenty of time to think and get back to me. I start out by thanking them for the invitation. If my kids have had good interactions with their child, I mention that our kids are enjoying each others’ friendship, whether at school or elsewhere. I always start out positively.

Offer Alternative Food

After my positive beginning, I then address the issue of diet. I ask what will be served as far as food (because there’s always food!) and mention that my daughter may be unable to eat some of it. Probably she won’t be able to have any of it, because usually parties consist of pizza, but no need to sound too negative right off the bat!

Then I ask if there would be a comparable alternative that I could bring, either just for Kayla, or even to hand out to all the kids, depending on the size of the party. Usually this friendliness prompts the parent to make this offer: “Is there anything I can get that your child could have?” Like I said, most people like to help!

Send Food with Your Child

Then, we work from there. We either work out that Kayla can have certain items but not others, or I bring her own meal to the party when I drop her off. Depending on where it is and the accommodations, I pack what food is needed. What you do in these circumstances will depend on your child’s sensitivity and will vary greatly from person to person.

Don’t Make a Big Deal

Don’t make a big deal out of it! Once that party starts, I drop off the food, point it out to the parent, and then don’t mention it further. I shouldn’t have to, since we’ve worked it out prior. (Of course, I’ve already given strict instructions to my child.) No child wants to be the center of attention at someone else’s party, especially for being different! I have found that Kayla sometimes would rather not eat at all than have to eat an alternative, just to avoid being different. It’s hard enough for them, so don’t draw unnecessary attention to the difference.

So relax, and don’t panic when those invitations come in the mail! They mean your child is making friends. And ultimately, life isn’t all about the food!

Janelle is wife to her hubby, who is celiac, and mom to 2 sweet girls, one of whom is celiac, and the other showing signs of gluten intolerance. She blogs about the gluten free life on a budget, including coupons, deals, recipes, and other money-saving tips at Gluten Freely Frugal.

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. Jeannette says

    That is how I handle it too, and knowing the parent – even a little, helps. I generally cut to the chase and say right off (after thank you) that my son has lots of food allergies. “It would probably be easiest if I could just bring him some treats that he could eat. Would that be alright?” Yes, usually they ask if they can get something for him to eat but with soy, dairy and egg out of the equation, I let them know that I appreciate it, but that it would probably just be easier if I supplied. I also let them know that, in my case, the allergies (except to nuts) are not life threatening…probably just a tummy ache (we are new to this so we have not actually had a reaction of he has been exposed). I think that helps the host to know too. My child is also used to this kind of thing because of nut allergies and, dare I say, he does not like pizza or chocolate!!! He just wants treats like the rest of the kids…does not have to be the same ones. Thanks for posting this…its kindof true.

  2. says

    GREAT post!! TY for sharing!! I have found that often we can at least find something we can eat, being GF, but not always. EX. if there are burgers & chips, we can have the burger w/no bun… & if the chips have no flavorings, MSG, oats, or other gluten we can eat those too. I almost always bring our own dessert because that is pretty much always gluten filled birthday cake. Sometimes we bring cupcakes, sometimes cookies, sometimes peanut butter bars. I will also bring them to share if there are not a ton of people.

  3. says

    Great advice! I remember when I was a child (and we’re going back decades!), the son of our village doctor had coeliac disease and I clearly remember his mother bringing along his own sandwiches to our birthday parties. We all wondered what his “special” food tasted like! He must have been aware that he couldn’t eat most of the party food.

    No one thought anything of it and he certainly didn’t seem to mind. In those days the focus seemed to be on the games rather than the food.

    Years later I saw him presenting the weather on the BBC, quite a surprise!

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