By contributing writer Janelle
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.
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.
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.