I hear far too many parents who are stressed out and deeply concerned about their children’s nutrition. Many of them are absolutely dumbfounded and cannot understand why their children just will not try new foods or at least eat what is good for them. Thus is the story of parenting a fussy eater…
The tricky part to this situation is if the equation just isn’t balanced. If your children are constantly having to deal with living in two homes that do not have a similar set of rules and habits, chances are that trying to get them to do anything, what more eat, becomes a lot more challenging. Another big factor to parenting fussy eaters after a divorce is that children are more than often “bribed” to like the other home better. This not only leads to a multitude of problems associated with a child’s health and diet, it also makes it far more difficult for one parent to try to enforce rules or encourage good eating habits.
What Could Be So Wrong With Eating Junk?
Many parents actually are clueless in this aspect. They claim that as long as they are eating, they should be fine. A simple fact is, a child is not eating right or enough healthy foods if they suffer from constant ailments with regards to their physical health and emotional well being.
Children who are not adequately nourished experience more than just eating problems or illness. Many of them also deal with mental health issues that might not seem clear or apparent to adults. What we eat has a direct impact and influence on how we feel, there just isn’t anyway to escape this. For instance, if a child is constantly hungry, he or she will often feel restless or irritated, sometimes even grumpy or angry (even adults get the same way!). Children who do not receive the needed nourishment might often feel sleepy, less energetic, moody, and for some not even being able to focus or concentrate in school.
On the other hand, children who are fed a substantial amount of processed foods that contain chemicals and other toxins might also be at risk of developing deficiencies or mental health disorders such as ADHD. Sugar, processed carbs, and many other preservatives can greatly affect a child’s mood, leading to depression in the long run. Depressed children have a higher risk of overeating to curb the problem and might become obese or end up over-consuming more unhealthy food types that he or she just might not need. (Hence the circle of binge eating.)
How Do You Know If Your Child Is Eating Right?
A general rule of thumb is that a child who is eating right is almost always growing well. Children know when they have had enough or when they need more. Trust your child to determine the amount of food that he or she needs. This not only instills a good sense of balance, it also encourages children to think for themselves and get attuned to how their body reacts to certain foods or amounts of food.
If you Google “starving children in Africa,” you could probably just as easily tell if a child is malnourished or underfed. The problem is that the children in today’s modernized societies hide behind junk food, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals and additives that might not give you telltale signs immediately. By the time these harmful wastes have built up in your child’s body, it could be years from now and by then, what’s done is done.
On the other hand, there are many symptoms of underfed or malnourished children that you can easily detect as a parent. While not every symptom or sigh might be directly related to a child’s diet, many of these prolonged ailments and concerns tend to be caused by a long-term effect of bad eating habits.
Here are just a few signs to watch out for,
- They haven’t touched any food on their plate and it’s been months since they have had a solid meal.
- My children are asking for a snack right after dinner!
- My son/daughter looks pale, weak, and disinterested to even try to move a muscle.
- My children have mood swings all the time.
- My child is not going to the bathroom.
- My child is always sick and his immune system is very weak.
- They do not concentrate in class or at home.
- My child is obese or too skinny.
Helping Picky Eaters Eat – The Parent’s Role
The challenge when dealing with picky eaters is how you would get them to actually put food in their mouths! This is probably the biggest question that mothers like you around the world are asking is, “How do I get them to eat?”
As adults, we sometimes do not see what our children are experiencing at their level and existence on earth. To them, this might all be confusing. To us, this might seem like a useless debate. In all honesty, it is not…
Lion King – Simba eating grub (*Photo Credit: galleryhip.com)
As parents, we have to be able to react to the situations at mealtimes and in restaurants appropriately and rise above our children who are, at that point, so demanding that they not have this food shoveled down their throats. So before we tackle the ways and moves you can use to convince and brainwash your child into eating something new and healthy, here are a few pointers to work on yourself first, before you try to fix your children.
1. Stay calm. Yes of course we all get pissed that they aren’t eating. As mothers, we are truly concerned that they might end up growing into adults weak and fragile, sickly and depressed. Getting worked up definitely isn’t going to help.
2. Focus. I say focus, but not on your child’s inability to try new foods or understand that it just isn’t doing him or her any good to keep scarfing down processed carbs and chemicals. Focus on why they need to eat, what healthy food is necessary, and why junk food is just going to cause more damage. Focus on how they can feel better and grow taller, smarter, more beautiful… (you know the trick to this…)
3. Associate first with their emotions. Instead of screaming to the ends of the world to try to get them to eat, first show them that you can relate to their feelings. Associate yourself with how they feel at that moment. “Yes, you wish you could eat that fried chicken,” or “I know it must make you mad that you can’t have that chocolate bar all the time.” Show them that you understand, then when they are calm and receptive, offer suggestions or ask them on how you can help them try new foods or eat healthy ones.
4. Don’t blame yourself. The last thing we need is a victim to the situation. Do not blame yourself for your child’s poor eating habits. While we all have good intentions, many factors and circumstances might actually prevent us from doing what we know needs to be done. Take a positive light on the entire matter and work with your child in a positive tone. Children are more encouraged when you are encouraged.
5. Practice what you preach. If you are telling your child that Coke is bad for you, then stop sipping on that Coke the entire day! Order tea or water during dinner and clear the fridge out of sugary, carbonated drinks.
It Takes Time
Nothing happens overnight, unless you have a magic spell! I don’t.
Patience is a virtue. Take time out of your busy schedule to bond with your children over mealtime, relate to them while they are having meltdowns on not wanting a tiny piece of potato in their rice, and show them the care and affection you have for them so they too can understand why you are so deeply concerned.
Always give yourself and your children the time and space to evolve and grow as a family and as individuals. Mealtime is not only a great bonding experience between you and your children, but also a parenting opportunity to nurture your children and nourish them. Use the situation to teach proper table etiquette, dining habits, and other important life lessons they need to know. Then, crack up and have a good laugh when it’s time to move on.
If all else fails, PRAY!
About Rock Star Mums. Rock Star Mums is a blog that strives to bring hope, purpose, and strength to single mothers in their battles to raise smart, happy, healthy children. Becca, founder and writer of Rock Star Mums, is a mother, motivator, and educator of two young children in California. Read A Letter from Becca.