Holiday Survival Guide for Kids with GERD
It can be a real challenge to get through the holidays when you are taking care of a child with 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 of delicious foods and drinks that trigger reflux symptoms such as soda, rich foods and baked goods. Parties and special events are super fun but really alter the sleep and mealtime schedule, often leaving parents and kids with reflux feeling grumpy. Tummy aches from eating too much or getting off of the recommended diet are common. I have put together my list of best holiday survivial tips from my own experience and from talking to other parents who have survived the holidays.
My Best Holiday Tips for Children:
Tip#1 Plan a non food oriented holiday event.
Encourage your neighbors and relatives to try a winter outing instead of the traditional cookie exchange or holiday party. Go ice skating, drive around and look at the holiday lights in your neighborhood or take a winter walk. Everyone benefits from breathing the fresh, cold air and getting some exercise to reduce stress. At the same time, your child with 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, be sure to 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 when combined with presents and other holiday necessities. 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 the 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 is vital to stick to the schedule as much as possible. Since the holiday parties and celebrations may not match with the eating needs of your child with GERD, you may need to feed your child before the big meal. She can go ahead and politely nibble while everyone else is eating the big feast.
Tip #5 Just a nibble of holiday food is ok.
If your child really wants to eat some forbidden foods that cause reflux symptoms, allow her to have a little tiny nibble to satisfy her taste buds. After all, this is a special occasion and she wants to participate in all of the fun. An older child can understand the need to limit the intake of foods that trigger reflux while a younger child may need to be supervised and distracted to stay away from the food table.
If she is allergic to a food, then she absolutely may not have any, as much as she begs.
Tip#6 Use the holidays to try a new food.
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 at some point during the busy holiday shopping season despite your vows to shop early or when the kids are at school. To avoid the inevitable stop at the food court, bring your own snack bag. Not only will your child stick to her diet and avoid triggering GERD symptoms by eating fried foods and carbonated drinks, you will save a great deal of money too! Try these easy to transport snack foods: individual bags of crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, 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. Some families are determined to have fun, break the mold and start a new non traditional family tradition.
Tip #10 Care for the caregiver.
Taking care of a child with reflux does not take a holiday. As a parent, you are always on call 24/7 regardless of your other responsibilities. Be sure to simplify your holiday celebration to offset the additional caregiving demands you have. Your child would much rather read a holiday book with you than watch you race through the mall in search of a gift. Your life will not always be so hectic but right now it is. Be sure to 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 when I am out shopping and doing so much for everyone else during the holidays. So buy yourself a gift- you are worth it.