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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

December 21, 2020, Brianna Procopio, MSN, RN
Enjoying the Holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Enjoying the Holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

While most children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) enjoy the holidays like other kids, it can be challenging during a flare. Worries about what to eat, access to bathrooms, and dodging disease-related questions from relatives can cause a great deal of anxiety for children with IBD. Thankfully, planning ahead with these tips can help your child enjoy the holiday meal.

  1. Keep it small. Our first and most important tip is to celebrate the holidays at home. As COVID-19 is surging again in Arizona – and since we know that large group gatherings are a primary cause of spread – it’s best to limit celebrations to immediate family (or even just your household) and use FaceTime or Skype to connect with loved ones outside the circle. Though many of us are fighting “caution fatigue” after nine months of the pandemic, the silver lining is that your child is probably most comfortable at home. Learn more about Phoenix Children’s recommendations for safe holiday celebrations.
  2. Prepare an IBD-friendly dish to share. Children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may follow specific diets or avoid certain foods during a flare. Planning ahead and preparing gut-friendly options will ensure your child can participate in the holiday meal and enjoy a variety of options. Trying new recipes each year can not only become a fun family tradition, it can help your child explore and understand foods that work for them.
  3. Ask about ingredients. Did Grandma bring a new casserole dish this year? Encourage your child to ask questions about ingredients and discuss ways to politely decline if it includes trigger foods.
  4. Point out the bathrooms. If you’re not able to enjoy holiday dinner at home and instead plan to visit a family member’s house, show your child the closest bathroom and make sure they know a few tricks for decreasing any sounds or smells – like turning on the faucet, laying toilet paper down in the water and bringing a pleasant bathroom spray. This will go a long way in easing your child’s anxiety when using someone else’s restrooms.
  5. Promote body positivity. It can be confusing to children who are developing their sense of body-image to hear comments from relatives about their bodies. Whether your child is thin due to a flare or experiencing the weight changes associated with steroids, it is important to remind your child that their worth is not tied to their body image and that all bodies change. If you hear comments about your child’s body, you can redirect the conversation by talking about your child’s talents, work ethic or hobbies.
  6. Bring extra supplies. Does your child have an appliance such as an ostomy or tube feedings? Packing extra supplies, a change of clothes, and medications can relieve anxiety and help your child focus on the celebration.
  7. Plan holiday activities that do not involve food. Many holiday activities revolve around food. Planning activities and traditions that aren’t food-related – like taking a family hike or visiting a holiday light display – can help your child feel included.
  8. Practice self-care. Parents of children with IBD often experience stress when their child is in a flare. This stress can be heightened during the holidays. Give yourself permission to address your own needs by getting plenty of rest, making healthy food choices and practicing self-care. Your needs are important, too!
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