Does your child drive you crazy by rejecting normally accepted foods as they:
- have a bit of brown on them
- are a bit darker than usual
- seem different
- have bits in
- have bits on
- are colder/hotter/thicker/thinner/lumpier
- have touched something else
- are too close to the ....
I was delighted to be asked to speak at a Mother's Group on Saturday afternoon. They all had preschoolers and challenges around getting the children eating, especially dinner.
One thing that came out of the session was how easy it is for us to inadvertently make eating more difficult for our child. All of us operate with the best of intentions. Often we are following patterns we've developed that we feel best support our child with their unique challenges.
What I find though is that we are often inserting ourselves into the middle of an equation that is better off without us :)
Let's look at some examples:
1. We decide what our child should eat and put it onto their plate. Our main goal is to then make sure they eat it all. We have given them the right amount and balance of foods and it's now important that they eat that.
Shopping with children is, let's face it, not always a great experience! But I have two stories from this week which show why sometimes it can really help us.
One mum told me she took her older boys shopping and the hesitant eater saw some yoghurt. He hadn't been eating them for a long time but on noticing them on the shelf he asked to buy one. He's now back eating yoghurt.
If his mum had decided to just buy one and bring it home the reaction could have been very different!
The other mum has a child with ARFID (the most extreme form of selective eating). He was shopping and noticed a food that he normally eats but in a new brand (which is normally a flat no). Although it was a different brand it was the same make as another food he was comfortable with so asked to buy it.
This may not sound like a win but for this child, accepting something even slightly new is a massive step.
Shopping is not something that always produces positive results but it happens often enough that it's worth making sure our children do come with us on occasion.
I'm so excited to be able to share my news with you!
For a long time I've wanted to write a book to reach more parents who have mealtime struggles. But what started as a book has morphed!
It's become more of a self-help manual that guides the caregiver of a picky eater through simple steps to more confident eating.
The manual has also become not only for parents of fussy eaters but is a support for any caregiver who would like help in expanding the diet in gentle, manageable steps.
It's the how, it's the what and it's the thinking and the strategy behind it.
The first draft is written and I am now working with a fabulous, local artist on the drawings and diagrams.
If you'd like to receive news on publication and be gifted additional material only available for pre-orders please click on the link* : https://www.theconfidenteater.com/the-practical-guide-to-co…
I'm posting this not to push guilt buttons or to worry parents unnecessarily but to raise awareness.
It is something I discuss with parents in my individual workshops. Eating nutrient low, processed foods does not fill us up in the same way as whole foods do.
We can eat a whole packet of crackers and still feel like more even though there is that whole mass of food in our stomach.
This can be very challenging for children as their brain is telling them they are hungry even though their stomach may be full.
It is also the reason why you may have a child that is constantly nagging for snacks even though you are always doling out food.
Finding a way we can improve the nutrient density of commonly accepted foods for picky eaters is something I am constantly working on.
My mission is to empower all parents to be able to feed their child from a place of safety and joy not fear.
I believe that in almost all families the person best placed to enable their picky eater to eat more widely is the parent. I know that when you're caught up in the middle of the storm it's impossible to see how that can be true. But it is!
Often looking at eating issues from an external position, as I do, enables a totally different view and solutions emerge. Having a plan, a huge box of tools and practical strategies that are simple to implement makes it all seem do-able.
We're deep into first term in the southern hemisphere and lunchboxes are once again a daily challenge.
I know that the boomerang box is an ever present nightmare for many parents.
For others it's the cringe over contents.
Whatever the challenge there are some actions we can take that support better eating at school/Kindy:
1. The more familiar a food is, the more likely it will get eaten. The lunchbox is not the best place for learning. If we do this at home first we can then gradually change what's happening away from us.
2. Looking to tick boxes for our child in terms of temperature, texture and taste. Often small changes can be a make or break.
3. Making foods manageable in terms of accessibility and size. Easy to open pots or packages mean our child can manage solo. Small offerings are less overwhelming than larger items eg. a mini muffin v a regular sized one.
4. Presentation is important (oh how well do we know this if we have a picky eater??!). We do eat with our eyes first, so without creating a Bento magical world, making sure the food looks appetizing is important.
5. Offering choices empowers our child and helps get them on board. We can maintain control whilst still giving some autonomy over what goes into the lunch.
6. The more relaxed we are, the more likely we are to eat. Anything that gets us anxious, angry or upset will impact on eating. How can we manage some of the situations that may impact on our child's comfort?
7. Time limits for lunch and needing to eat before play can put a lot of pressure on our child. This may not be something we can control but knowing it can be a factor may enable us to help manage it.
8. Having rules around what must be eaten first can also result in certain foods becoming more challenging to consume. This may be something we can discuss with caregivers/teachers.
9. Being mindful of how our emphasis can affect our child. The way we inventory the returning lunchbox can change the dynamic from "success" or "failure" to "let's see what extra is needed for tomorrow". The lunchbox should never be a test that is passed or failed.
10. Knowing what is happening whilst our child is away from home in regards to food is critically important. What do they eat from shared food options? Are there noises, smells or peer/teacher interventions that make things challenging? Do they feel uncomfortable eating in front of others? Are they too busy playing to eat?
Having open lines of communication can give us surprising insight into what's happening and potentially give us ideas as to how to better support our child to eat well away from home.
I have always been passionate about food for children and ensuring that it's both delicious and balanced. What I realised was that knowing what to eat was not the challenge. Most parents are aware what to serve, it's the how to get the children eating it that is not simple.
Initially I looked for someone I could refer parents to. Then I realised that there was just not an established network of support for parents struggling to feed their children.
More disturbing there was 1) lots of conflicting information about how to support picky eaters and 2) a culture that minimised the importance of resolving eating issues.
What I have learned is that picky eating can be a soul destroying problem. It is something that we have to face 5x per day, 7 days per week and it disrupts family dynamics in a host of negative ways.
On Tuesday night I ran a really fun session for a group of home-based educators. The topic they chose was supporting children to try new foods. It was an interactive session and we did a lot of troubleshooting and Q & A.
Next weekend I am running a personalised session for a mother's group. They've decided what they really want to learn about and I'm putting together a program.
If you do have a group and would like to organise a session on a specific topic around eating for 2-12's then please get in contact. The price is excellent :) and it's a great way to get answers to all those curly questions.
Isn't it something we're all seeking :)
I met the fabulous Madeleine Taylor last year and was privileged to attend her workshop on parenting teens.
My husband and I thought we had parenting pretty much under control (most of the time!). And then we became the novice "managers" of a teen and the normal rules stopped applying.
The first 6 months of parenting a teen felt roller coaster with no seat belt-esque.
Madeleine holds the license to teach the parenting course "Raising Resilient Kids in the Modern World", for NZ. It's a great system for ensuring we're not inadvertently overindulging our children but instead supporting them to be independent, competent and well-balanced.
After completing the teen workshop I felt more confident about how to find balance in parenting between being in charge and ensuring our son had independence but within sensible and safe boundaries.