One of my big mantra's is that change comes from us.
If we have a child that struggles to eat then usually, they are quite happy with the status quo, or too anxious to think about making a change.
This puts the ball firmly in our court. Unless we look at ways to make change possible, nothing moves forwards.
In some ways this is empowering. We are in charge and so have some control over progress. When we change our approach, we enable our child to do the same.
Social occasions unfortunately, are where more stress hits parents and children when picky eating is present.
The spotlight lands well and truly on the children who are not participating in the meals and parents often feel embarrassed, judged or just really worried for their child and how they are going to cope.
Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or a milestone birthday, my advice would be the same.
Let’s look at 5 things that help everyone!
1. Big social occasions are NOT the place to teach a child to eat. If peanut butter sandwiches are the only menu item, then there is an infinitesimal chance that they will suddenly say “oh but today, that turkey looks great”.
I began working with families with a fussy eater from a background working with parents and children around food and healthy choices.
There is a big emphasis in society on “feeding”. Making sure children get enough food and this translates to individual families where we’re often conscious of how much our child is eating.
A few weeks ago I was talking to Julia Milne, who runs an amazing program at one of the local schools where the children grow their own veg and then cook. The project grew from one school to a whole community enterprise where now they are producing enough to feed 5 schools.
Although many of the children who are being fed would normally be short of volume, the emphasis is not on “feeding”, it’s on nourishing.
I am always, always delighted when a fussy child is able to eat something new that previously would have been a challenge. It’s the reason I work long hours, nights and weekends. It’s why I wrote Creating Confident Eaters and is what has me leaping out of bed at 5.15am (well, mostly!). My goal is for every child to be able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
There are certain times though when a story touches me on an even deeper level. Phillippa very kindly gave me permission to share a little of hers.
Her son is 9 and being autistic has a lot of challenges around foods and textures (80% of children on the spectrum struggle to eat variety). He is stuck on a selection of foods and finds new things really difficult.
I was chatting to a mum recently about her 5 year daughter. Although she is pretty selective, she has got into the habit of trying new fruits so is more curious about food in general.
The daughter asked whether they could explore the avocado that was sitting in the fruit bowl. This is an exciting step, when our child independently asks to look at a new food!
They both held it and then mum cut it open. Her daughter recoiled in fear and did not want to come anywhere near it. The “slimy” looking texture was a total turn-off.
“It’s not often I’ll give other parents feedback on their parenting. Unsolicited feedback is generally not a good idea … and when it’s about parenting it can be a recipe for disaster.
But there is some behaviour that you just can’t step over.
So I approached the family in question, sitting at a picnic table next to the playground. “Is this your boy?” I asked.
Holidays are almost upon us, and with them all the social occasions that make life more challenging for parents and children when food is a struggle.
The great news is, it’s not too late to get things off on a new track.
What’s stopping you?
This is, by default, the biggest challenge for parents of picky eaters. The more anxious a child around food, the greater the difficulty.
BUT, and it’s a big but! The first step is NOT how to support a child to do this.
I know this seems counter-intuitive but it’s really important to understand this. It’s not just my opinion but those of all the leading feeding experts around the world. Hopefully we can’t all be wrong 😉
It’s a crazy time of year to be making changes for sure. BUT, enjoying Christmas and holidays is more challenging if food is a constant battle with your picky eater, so is it worth a little effort now for big rewards later on?
I know the answer is yes :)
If you’d like to:
- Know how to reduce drama around food
- Change the dynamics so you are in charge
- Get strategies for getting more of the foods you’d like eaten, eaten
- Understand how powerful we can be
- Not inadvertently stop progress
- Learn great strategies for approaching food
- Start to understand how eating learning works
As anyone who follows me for any length of time knows, I’ve always struggled with sleep. I can remember nights on end of sleepless nights, even in primary school, and my mother says I was a terrible sleeper as a baby.
When I was speaking to Kim Corley, sleep expert, yesterday on Talk Tuesday I realised that not sleeping well as a baby was not going to bode well for later life (thanks mum and dad :( )
I have a home-office and have to pass my bed many times each day. I used to look at it with a mixture of longing and anger. I longed to lie down and get some rest, as I was always tired.