When we have a picky eater, there is often very little good news.
But, I’m going to end this series “Advent Advice” on a positive.
Often children become picky eaters due to factors outside our control. They have sensory issues, reflux, are really anxious or have a traumatic experience, for example.
But, as their most important relationship, there are ways that we can support them to eat more variety and conversely, ways that we, without meaning to, make things worse.
Following an uber strict diet in order to look a certain way or fit into a specific way of eating is often miserable. Denying ourselves pleasurable foods or not being able to participate comfortably in social occasions can make life less fun.
Being a picky eater can throw a child unwittingly into both these categories. Children are unable to eat a range of foods so often get really bored and unenthusiastic about what they eat. They are also often excluded from social occasions due to the foods served.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you may be thinking this seems the opposite to what I’d normally say. And it is. So, bear with me while I explain!
Is picky eating just bad behaviour? No, in 99% of cases, absolutely not. But, do we get picky eating and behaviour confused on a regular basis? Yes.
I know for a lot of parents, the thought of how difficult, time consuming and painful change is going to be prevents them from taking steps forwards. They try some strategies and it ends in disaster or a dead end and everything either seems pointless or overwhelmingly difficult.
But, change does not have to be hard, it does not have to be particularly time consuming and often things can be fun for our child (yep, that’s the truth, fun). I get loads of feedback about how much children have enjoyed the new routines I’ve recommended that parents implement.
There are a 1,000 articles on the internet giving us suggestions for the best foods to give a picky eater.
Many parents in desperation, go in search of that magical recipe that will overnight get their child eating.
Unfortunately, this just doesn’t exist. In fact, I laugh out loud at many of the recipe books claiming to be “perfect for picky eaters”. But, there are some really important things to bear in mind when choosing food for our child:
When we have a picky eater, we are often hyper focused on which new foods they are eating. How many fruit servings they have a day, whether they eat enough vegetables and if they like the sort of protein we want them to eat.
Our child’s success or failure, in regards to eating, is measured by whether they eat x, y or z in reasonable quantities.
When we do this, we’re forgetting that eating is a process and the actual eating part is the end of what can be a very long series of touch points along the way.
The parents who speak to me almost always know, deep down, when their child’s eating is not the same as the other children of the same age. But they are often fobbed off when they ask for help. They are told not to worry, that their child will grow out of it, that they just need to keep on offering foods, and it will all be OK.
In my experience, parents are almost always the ones best placed to make judgement calls about their child and how serious issues are. No one spends as much time, is as invested or knows our child better than we do.
When parents find out I work with parents of picky eaters, invariably their first question is “how do I get my children to eat more fruit and vegetables?”. Most parents, even those without fussy eaters, would love it if their children ate more of the green stuff, and willingly.
There may not be a magical answer, but there is definitely one thing that does, over time increase the number eaten:
Every parent of a picky eater has either heard this, or been made to feel it. It’s an awful feeling and one that many parents carry around with them all the time. When I speak to mums it’s one of the times that often brings out huge emotions, as they try to articulate why their child’s problems are their fault.
But is this true?