All About Food

The first thing to say is it’s a really common one for children to have a moment of “fussy” eating. Food brings out lots of emotions in adults (for lots of different reasons) so a tricky mealtime, or constant rejection of food, can quickly escalate.

It’s all too easy for food to become about control, and we find eating moves from being a positive experience into being quite a challenge. Read on for mealtime tips…

The first thing to consider is how we support independence – letting children feed themselves from a young age to promote feelings of independence & relaxation. When they feel relaxed they are more likely to eat & enjoy mealtimes.

It can be helpful to reflect on our attitude to food. Do we place a lot of importance on eating, but have a child who can take it or leave it? What if we spend ages preparing a meal and it is turned down? If we can remember this isn’t personal, we immediately take a lot of the heat out of a difficult situation.

It’s important to remember it isn’t always about food – when children feel out of sorts emotionally or physically they can’t always tell us. Sometimes the only way they have to tell us something is to communicate through their actions. Refusing food is one example of this.

When it gets highly charged or emotional, remember to validate feelings. Sometimes the best thing to do is say “I hear you…you don’t want food but you do want it…it’s all a bit confusing.” Children feel heard and everything starts to relax again.

It’s important to remind ourselves to have realistic expectations. Children can mange sitting at the table and eating. But they are unlikely to want to stay sitting for ages afterwards. They may also like a food one day, and not feel like eating it the next.

Many of us grew up with food being used as a reward or punishment. If we can, I suggest avoiding this. Instead of helping to set children up for a healthy relationship with food, we risk linking food to emotion, guilt and approval.

It’s great to involve children in meal planning and food prep. If they’ve helped to prepare and cool a meal or snack, they will be invested in it, and will be far more likely to eat what they have prepared!

And the big one – take the pressure off. When we refocus ourselves on the joy of mealtimes & enjoying a shared experience, we bring connection, love & nurture back to mealtimes. When we bring this sense of well-being to food, we find many of the issues around eating start to naturally ease.