It can be a real challenge to get through the holidays when you're taking care of a child with gastroesophageal reflux and trying to balance all of the other things on your To-Do list such as shopping, baking, traveling and entertaining.
In addition, the holidays are full soda, rich foods and baked goods that trigger acid reflux symptoms. Tummy aches from eating too much or getting off the recommended diet are common.
Parties and special events are super fun but really alter the sleep and mealtime schedule, often leaving parents and kids with reflux feeling grumpy.
I have put together my list of best holiday survival tips from my own experience and from talking to other parents who have survived the holidays.
Tip#1: Plan a non-food oriented holiday event.
Try a winter outing instead of the traditional cookie exchange or holiday party. Go ice skating, look at the holiday lights in your neighborhood or take a winter walk. Everyone benefits from the fresh air and exercise. At the same time, your child with acid reflux can participate while staying away from the rich holiday foods that trigger symptoms.
Tip#2: Use vitamins and nutrition drinks.
Vitamins and nutrition drinks may help your child balance poor eating, stress and germs that come from holiday celebrations. Don't forget to take your vitamins too!
Tip#3: Pack wisely for holiday travel.
Before you go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, pack plenty of medication and special foods so you don't have to make an emergency trip to an unfamiliar store while traveling. It might seem like a lot of extra baggage, but some children really need to bring their wedge or pillow for sleeping or special foods to keep their digestive system happy.
Tip#4: Keep to an eating schedule that works.
Some children just need to eat the same foods every day at the same time each day. If the schedule allows your child to eat well and reduce symptoms, it's vital to stick to it as much as possible. So you may need to feed your child before the big meal. She can politely nibble while everyone else is eating the big feast.
Tip #5: Just a nibble of holiday food is ok.
You can allow your child a little nibble of some forbidden foods to satisfy her taste buds. After all, this is a special occasion and she wants to participate in all of the fun. Older children may understand the need to limit foods that trigger reflux while younger children may need supervision.
But, if she has a food allergy, then she absolutely should not have any, no matter how much she begs.
Tip#6: Try new food during the holidays.
If you have a picky eater who only wants to eat chicken nuggets and crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, use the holidays to introduce a new food. Perhaps your child will want to help prepare a special holiday dish. Who knows, maybe she will take a bite and expand her eating horizons too.
Tip#7: Plan ahead for school parties.
If your child is on a special diet or has eating restrictions due to food allergies, plan ahead and ask the teacher about providing a special treat for your child or the entire class.
Tip#8: Pack your own snack bag for the mall.
It is likely you will end up at the mall with the kids despite your vows to shop early or while they're at school. To avoid stopping at the food court, bring your own snack bag. Not only will your child stick to her diet and avoid triggering GERD symptoms, you will save a great deal of money! Try bringing along individual bags of crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, and a juice box or water bottle.
Tip#9: Start a new holiday tradition.
Sometimes navigating the restricted eating and picky eating makes a food oriented holiday celebration too difficult to manage. Break the mold and start a new family tradition.
Tip #10: Care for the care giver.
Taking care of a child with acid reflux does not take a holiday. As a parent, you are on call 24/7 regardless of your other responsibilities. Your life will not always be so hectic, but right now it is. Simplify your holiday celebration to offset the additional care giving demands you have. Ask for help and take a break so you stay healthy and sane. I always make it a point to buy myself a special gift for myself and you should too -- you are worth it.
Next week: Top holiday tips for adults with GERD
Published On: December 07, 2007