This month provided a very insightful experience for me.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to have seen firsthand just how severely guilt around children and food can affect parents.
After feeling and seeing the anguish this issue can cause, I feel very passionately that it is an important topic to broach.
Working with childcare centres has been invaluable in providing me with insight into the issues around parents, children and food. I see that the world is a much busier place than it used to be, parents are often more stressed than ever, confused about what are good foods for their kids (as there is so much information out there), and yes, there is GUILT!
Guilt because they have to work such long hours, leaving the children in childcare; guilt because they cannot be there more for their children; guilt because they feel they cannot give their children everything they want; guilt, guilt, guilt!
This month I would really like to offer reassurance to any parents out there who may feel this way that you are doing the very best job you can, and, LOOK at your children!
I am sure they are beautiful, healthy and happy! That is the product of YOUR super work!
So congratulations! You deserve a HUGE pat on the back! 🙂
When it comes to food, I would like to try and relieve some of the guilt….
The first area is Fussy Eating.
Many parents have said to me that their child is a fussy eater and it can be incredibly difficult to get them to eat certain things. This worries and panics some parents, so much so, they worry their child will go hungry if they don’t give him or her what they want.
Let me say here that I realise this scenario is MUCH more difficult in reality than we can portray here in writing, however, I hope to be able to offer some practical ideas and reminders….
• Remember when you were a child what OPTIONS you had for food. Were you inundated with thousands of different choices and fangly, dangly, brightly coloured and seductive products? Or were your choices less and more simple? For example, fruit, a sandwich, dinner, or no dinner? Without all of the extra options, did you ever go hungry? Did it affect your growth, your development or your long term emotional happiness? I am guessing not. So whilst a situation may seem intense now, and your child may genuinely be distraught in front of you, remember that in retrospect, and in perspective, the situation is really not that bad. When you remove the 5 million options, the choices are much simpler! 🙂
• For example, “I am sorry Bob that you do not like your dinner but that is all there is. You can have it now, or I can put it in the fridge for you, for when you are hungry later?”
• When children are hungry, they eat. Unlike us adults they are the BEST at controlling their intake according to their needs. In fact, we sometimes interfere with this innate ability when we insist they eat all that is in front of them. So rest assured, when Bob is hungry, he will eat his dinner.
• Keep the home’s food supplies simple, basic and nutritious, eg fruit, healthy sandwiches with nutritious fillings (cheese and tomato, peanut butter, egg and lettuce), or other vegetable based options. This way, every option is a healthy one.
• Children have small appetites, so when they eat it is important they get in the foods that provide the most important and needed nutrients for healthy growth and development.
• Fill your shopping list with vegetables (the more colourful the better), fruit, proteins (cheese, egg, lean meats, fish, nuts) and wholegrain products.
• Avoid less desirable options which may only fill their tummies temporarily with sugar, fats, refined flour preservatives and colours.
The second thing I would like to touch on is Pester Power; the incredible power of persuasion your children may have when it comes to shopping and the types of products that do, or not, end up in the trolley 🙂
Marketing and peer pressure are powerful forces in action on a daily basis- there is no denying that! Children often want the latest, greatest, coolest “thing” that they have seen on TV, or that their friends have. A few things here…
• These are often “options” that complicate an otherwise simple area
• Try to go grocery shopping without your children
• Write a menu plan and shopping list before you head out to the supermarket – and stick to it
• Perimeter shop- don’t go into the aisles unless you have to- put your blinkers on; packages are marketing 🙂
• Remember, YOU know what is good for your children, they can only eat what is there for them to choose from
• Lead by example. If a child grows up in a house where healthy food options are the norm, then they are less likely to employ the power of pester
• Fruit, sandwiches, veggies can be just as quick as packaged options
The last thing is treats.
Parents can sometimes feel so guilty, that they like to “treat” their children. A treat may come in the form of lollies, a chocolate bar, takeaway, or another of the million options out there.
When these treats are few and far between (no more than once a week in total), they pose little threat to a person’s health.
However, when they become more and more frequent, they can become a real factor in the development of certain lifestyle conditions. Unfortunately we are seeing children younger and younger with diabetes and high cholesterol.
Instead of treating your child through unhealthy food choices, why not look for non-food ways to reward them?
Take them to the park, spend time listening to how their day was, colour-in with them, play Playdough. Ultimately your love and attention is what they cherish most.
Even a 2 minute dose will mean more to your children than any other treat you could possibly offer.
At the very least these options could distract them from a potential food battle.
I hope I have been able to offer, if nothing else, some perspective and reassurance that you DO know what’s best, so trust and LISTEN to yourself 🙂
Believe me when I say I truly admire parents and the selflessness you demonstrate in bringing children into the world!
I honestly congratulate you all, and hope you realise just how wonderful you are 🙂
Until next month…..
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