Fun with Food!

Welcome to Fun with Food! This site was designed to help parents and caregivers find, share and ask about fun foods for your selective toddler!

As a speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders, I encounter many children who have experienced negative associations surrounding food. These children often have accompanying oral motor feeding difficulties and sensory processing difficulties--making eating a very stressful experience instead of an enjoyable one.

This website will hopefully serve as an "idea place" for meals as well as questions and support from other parents and caregivers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Family Food Fights

...And I don't mean tossing meatballs at each other!  Take a minute and try to honestly answer these questions:

*Is mealtime in your household stressful?
*Do you ever find yourself coaxing and bribing your child to just 'take one bite'?
*Did you take the time to prepare a meal for your family only to find your hopes of sitting down with smiling faces shattered by crying, refusal to eat and an overall unhappy experience?
*Do you find yourself having mixed emotions on where to draw the line with what goes on the plate, in the mouth or how much control you should have over your child's meal/intake?
*Does the frustration extend beyond your child?  Are you and your spouse/significant other arguing over what the right or wrong approach is with your child?
*Does this tension cause dread and stress for the entire family?

If you answered No to these questions then congratulations, you have escaped an experience that many of us have not been able to avoid at one point or another!  If you said "yes" to many of these questions then I promise you...you are not alone!  Am I right?  I think we all struggle with finding that middle ground with our responsibilities and expectations.  Being on the same page with our spouse is a feat within itself.  Being on the same page with extended family members and close friends is also a stressor for many.  In fact I am sure many of you reading this have heard "He will eat when he is hungry", "Just tell them they can't have that cupcake if they don't try a green bean", or "Take them to time out" about as many times as you wish to hear.  Everyone wants to label your child with behavioral problems or as having an issue that lies within the responsibility of the parent.  But guess what?  That just isn't the case, is it?  I wish every one of my own family members could attend the conferences that I have attended, courses I completed in graduate school, read the books that I have read or seen firsthand what I have seen with working with many many families over the years.  Those families wish the same for everyone they know. 

What we want families and friends to know is something a little different than the disciplinary suggestions we have all been given.  We want to turn the Family Food Fight into the Fight for our Family.  Since attending courses and conferences and extensive reading is not an option for most then the least we can do for those who could benefit from a greater understanding of feeding development and making mealtimes less stressful is to let them know that you are seeking help and that you trust your resources and need others to trust this as well.  If I were one to care little about what my family and close friends felt then I would not be writing an article entitled "Family Food Fights"...but I do, I like to be understood and more importantly I like to get the message to others so they can follow suit when given the opportunity.  I have readers and families, including my household, in mind when I write this and I know many of you struggle with these very same issues. 

The Facts.  You  may have read this on a gerber pamphlet or from your local pediatrician but it takes at least 10 exposures of a new food before acceptance of that food.  Where do your expectations at mealtime lie?  Do you put a new food on a plate and expect your child to take a bite because YOU love squash casserole and simply can't imagine that anyone on Earth would refuse a bite?  Is your child thinking "You have GOT to be kidding me, that tablespoon of so called squash casserole looks like something my baby brother expelled an hour ago"...is it the sight of it, the smell of it, the texture?  Know your child.  Knowing your childs fears and aversions is very helpful in the eating process!  If your child already knows that you Expect them to take a bite of that casserole no matter what then you may be setting yourself and your child up for disappointment.  Children want to feel that they can accomplish something and they generally love the acknowledgement whether it be a smile of approval, verbal praise or some kind of reward they are working toward.  I feel that knowing your child's level of anxiety can be very helpful toward building their food repertoire.  You can of course push a little and change things up accordingly, but the point I am trying to make is that we sometimes have higher expectations for a child that may have heightened anxiety in those situations.  We can't forget to praise the small steps and use our positive language to talk about the food and not ask impossible things of them.  Today they may be o.k. with helping to put the squash in the food processor, but trying that little taste of the finished product may be months, or further, away.  It does not mean that we should give up on the challenges, but learn to back away when needed and push when you see an opportunity.  If you would like more information for yourself or for others please leave a comment or email me at kris.starnes@gmail.com as I have a few links that may be of interest to you or others.

2 comments:

Addie Otto said...

I've just found your blog and everything you're saying is hitting home with how we see our picky eater. I answered yes to almost every questions at the start of this post. I just made the connection (3 years after our issues began) that anxiety is behinds it all...duh! Just to smell or taste something is a struggle, every day. I'm looking forward to learning more strategies to help our family deal with it.

Kristina--Picky Tots said...

Hi Addie! My daughter is Adalyn :). I'm glad you've discovered that anxiety is a huge factor...hopefully You will all be able to help reduce that anxiety so your little one will be willing to try some different things and feel more comfortable. By the way I wrote this post after a very stressful dinner with my 5 year old and husband. I think we were all arguing a different point and pretty much just gave up for the night.