Hey Mommies! Mealtimes can be an extremely challenging time for kids and parents. Here’s one reason why mealtimes may be challenging for your child.
A lot of times kids are sat down, presented with a plate of food, and told to eat. They may not get to make any choices or have any say in what they are given. If they don’t eat right away or they avoid a food on their plate, we may start trying to put it in their face and tell them to take a bite.
This whole situation may lead to upset, tantrums, and meltdowns from your child. At this point, you may be thinking “What the hell is wrong with you! I’m just trying to feed you!” Then you get upset and frustrated, and the whole mealtime experience is really kind of awful for everyone.
This is where’d I’d challenge you to put yourself in your child’s shoes and look at it from their perspective.
Imagine that every day you were called over for meals, given a plate of food, and had no say in what you wanted to eat. Imagine that the food you’re given is something you’ve never seen or tasted before because often for little ones, they are given foods they haven’t seen or tasted many times before. Now imagine that someone starts scooping up the food and putting it closer to your mouth. They may even try to shove it in your mouth. At this point, you would probably start to get pretty annoyed and upset too.
This whole experience can cause mealtimes to become stressful and overwhelming for your child. If mealtimes are constantly this way, your child will start coming to the table already on edge, or immediately start meltdowns or tantrums when it’s time to eat.
I completely understand that as a parent, you just want your child to eat and be healthy, but it’s best to keep mealtimes as stress free as possible.
You may be stressing out because you feel like your child is not eating or getting the proper nutrition, but in MOST situations, a child will not starve themselves. They will eventually eat when they are hungry. Or, if they did not eat the dinner that your prepared, maybe make them something for breakfast that you know they will like and eat.
(Disclaimer: there are some cases when a child just will not eat no matter what. That may be based on a medical condition or because they are just so stressed out about meals that they stop eating. You have to judge the situation based on your child or consult with your child’s doctor.)
Eating is one thing in a child’s life that they can control, and we really cannot make our children eat. BUT we can decrease the pressure and stress level of mealtimes. If mealtimes are more laid back, this creates an environment where your child feels safe and will likely be more open to trying foods.
If you stay calm, don’t put too much pressure on your child, make it fun, and let them explore foods on their terms, they will be much more likely to eat. You can also try these 8 tips to help encourage eating.
What have been your experiences with mealtimes? Have you ever thought about mealtimes from this perspective? Let me know in the comments below!
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com