FOOD INTOLERANCE NETWORK FACTSHEET
Divorced families and coping with diet
- When you divorce, include a clause about diet in the custody agreement
- Coping strategy - using an antidote
- A strategy to encourage your ex to continue with the diet
- Strategies to help your child understand the reasons for being on the diet
- Hints on how to get blokes involved in the diet from a supportive stepfather
- Understand that you may have to abandon the diet
- Discuss how others handle this issue
keywords: divorce split blended families custody ex-husband ex-wife
"Every second weekend we have to send them off to their father to be filled up with the worst junk food and returned out of their tree. It takes a week for them to calm down then we have four good days before we have to send them back and go through it all again"
"... my ex-husband is aggressively sabotaging my efforts with my children, constantly telling them that failsafe foods are 'silly' and if they ask for failsafe foods he gets cross at them."
" ... they go to stay with their mother every second weekend - she gives them cordial, just because I have said they shouldn't have it"
"It's a vindictive thing - feeding them junk food is as bad as giving them drugs or alcohol".
Split families like these demonstrate clearly that food regulators and other authorities in Australia are failing in their mandate to protect vulnerable children. We are told that food is clearly labelled so parents can choose to avoid additives that affect their children, but what happens if the ex-spouse deliberately chooses bad food so that they can return feral kids as revenge? Sounds like child abuse but it happens. There's plenty of junk food available to fuel the rage including artificial colours that are banned in Europe.
Research shows clearly that the main reason for diet failure is an unsupportive partner. (Egger et al, Lancet 1985 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2857900)
It is very difficult for children to stay committed to the diet when being forced to break it constantly because this maintains food cravings.
When you divorce, include a clause about diet in the custody agreement
For this you will need to supportive health professionals e.g.
- a record of the results of the RPAH elimination diet challenges from your supportive dietitian
- some paediatricians are particularly good at writing supportive letters about food intolerance for parents to take to schools or judges regarding custody cases
Coping strategy - using an antidote
Most families in this position cope by putting their children in a soda bicarb bath as soon as they get home from the ex's place, or giving them a drink of soda bicarb or Eno regular or a calcium supplement. Although not ideal, it works, but don't overdo the bicarb - not every day - as it can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
 Dealing with ex-husbands (November 2006) COURAGE AWARD STORY NOVEMBER 2006
Hi. I can already give you some feedback, as my 3 children and I have been on the elimination diet for 3 days. My eldest child is 14 (depression, asthma, sleeplessness, fatigue, restless legs, easily irritated, unmotivated etc): this morning she got out of bed without being nagged, had a shower without being told, all while smiling! I stopped taking antidepressants 2 weeks ago, and today for the first time since, I am not feeling my normal symptoms of depression. My youngest, 3, is hyperactive and today has been a lot calmer. He also normally wakes about 6am, and today slept in till 9:30!!! My elder son, 6, who has a learning delay, woke up teary and temperamental, as he was before bed last night, but he was at out-of-hours schoolcare yesterday and ate apple, cheese and yoghurt... One thing the book 'Fed up with children's behaviour' doesn't address is what to do when in a situation where I do not live with my ex-husband and he only sees the kids once a week, how do I get him to understand that the kids need to try this? He sees their issues as being 'normal' and although none of my kids are extreme in any way I want to give them the best life they can have, now and in the future. How do you convince people that relatively 'normal' kids still can benefit?
(later) thank you thank you! Despite all of my best efforts, my ex-husband is aggressively sabotaging my efforts with my children, constantly telling them that failsafe foods are 'silly' and if they ask for failsafe foods he gets cross at them. They spent one night at his house (Day 11 of the elim.diet) and he gave them everything he could think of that was on the list of 'Don'ts'. Consequently they came home silly. Neither of the boys (6 and 3) could get to sleep that night, the littlest one crying and rolling around in bed sobbing 'I can't stop, I can't stop'. In desperation I gave them both a half teaspoon of bi carb, thinking 'this isn't going to do anything' (I should know better!). As it tasted so awful I let them chase it with a Werther's. Within 10 minutes they were both asleep....- from newsletter #50
A strategy to encourage your ex to continue with the diet
Ask your ex to watch the DVD as per these reader comments:
 How to get a reluctant partner to change diet and DVD feedback (June 2010)
- I had been trying to convince my husband just to WATCH the DVD for three months, and although he was happy to go additive free, he wasn't keen to go completely failsafe. At the end of the DVD he turned to me and said "I think we have to do it". We're now in week 5 of the elimination diet, with huge changes for the whole family – Tiffany, by email.
- My sister borrowed your DVD because her partner has IBS. He had no interest in watching it, so I gave her Sue's advice to put it on when he was around without asking him explicitly to watch it. She did, and within five minutes he was sitting next to her, glued to the screen. Although they haven't yet gone failsafe, he is now reading all labels and making better choices. My sister is lost for words!
Strategies to help your child understand the reasons for being on the diet
- watch our DVD with your child, as described in this story
He had no interest in watching it, so I gave her Sue's advice to put it on when he was around without asking him explicitly to watch it. She did, and within five minutes he was sitting next to her, glued to the screen. Although they haven't yet gone failsafe, he is now reading all labels and making better choices. My sister is lost for words!
- discuss the issues with your child as described in this story
 Vocal tics related to non-failsafe 'treats' (September 2007)
My husband said he was supportive of our boys' [RPAH elimination] diet though I suspected secretly skeptical. Last weekend he indulged the boys in various 'treats' including non-failsafe lemonades, popcorn, etc. This morning I had the first meltdown in a couple of months from our son who has Asperger's. He was back to headbanging, crying, not wanting to eat, refusing to go to school, hand flapping, vocal tics, etc. It was full on. I talked to him about it (after he'd had a calcium tablet and calmed a little) and he said he would give up all those foods he loves if it meant he was able to be calm again.
Hints on how to get blokes involved in the diet from a supportive stepfather
 How to get blokes involved in the diet by a supportive stepfather (September 2012)
I didn't know about food intolerance at first and thought my girlfriends' kids just needed a kick up the bum. Now I'm their stepfather I realise that their bad behaviour is entirely related to food. Every second weekend we have to send them off to their father to be filled up with the worst junk food and returned out of their tree. It takes a week for them to calm down then we have four good days before we have to send them back and go through it all again.
Here are some of my hints to get blokes involved:
- for a failsafe barbecue cook the steak briefly on the plate so it is rare - to prevent development of amines don't char or overcook
- use some pear and leek ketchup on the barbecue plate for flavouring
- serve with pasta or noodle salads
- serve the steak cut up into small pieces on a platter and encourage ADHD children to help themselves to as much as they want - they will eat much more like that than if confronted by a single large steak on their plate
- fathers need to be convinced to give up their tomato sauce, devon and similar foods
- you have to do the diet with the whole family, you can't expect one child to have to avoid his favourite foods when others are eating it. You can't even have it in the house.
- from the 2012 Roadshow
Understand that you may have to abandon the diet if both your child and ex are against it
I know this is totally unfair, e.g. I wanted to try the elimination diet for my stepsons but they go to stay with their mother every second weekend and she would not support such a diet (she gives them cordial now, just because I have said to the boys they shouldn't have it) - by email
Discuss how others handle this issue on our facebook or email groups
 Separated parents and failsafe - thread from facebook (February 2014)
Any thoughts on/experiences with constantly switching between failsafe and non-failsafe for kids with separated parents? My ex and his family won’t even acknowledge our kids’ bad nut allergies despite a couple of hospitalisations! They "forget" so I have no hope of them acknowledging food sensitivities and they have used artificial colours "against me" on purpose in the past (given boys red frogs just before they are returned to me).
We have been failsafe for four days (been avoiding artificial chemicals for years but it appears natural chemicals are the problem). Changes almost instantly and amazing. I have different children!
Unfortunately I do not have the kids long enough in my care to do challenges properly (10 nights a fortnight but with only 7 days straight).
Is avoiding food chemicals completely part of the time likely to increase bad/extreme reactions? Would this be unhealthy for my kids to switch between low chemical and all chemical diets? Any advice? - Gail READ RESPONSES
Facebook Sue Dengate Failsafe Group http://www.facebook.com/groups/128458328536/
Website forum www.fedup.com.au
Email Support groups provide specialised or regional support, e.g. eczema, asthma, different countries or cities. There are now 27 groups available http://fedup.com.au/information/support/email-support-groups
Fed Up by Sue Dengate, available in bookstores, libraries and through our website - there's currently special offer for a set of both books and the DVD. Fed Up is the best book to start with.
The RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook with food and shopping guide- an essential reference if you are following the diet in the long term. Available from libraries, your dietitian or http://www.allergytrain.com.au/Store/tabid/62/ProductID/31/Default.aspx
The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians http://fedup.com.au/information/support/dietitians
© Sue Dengate February 2014
Soy, lentil and other legume intolerance