Food is what nourishes us. And eating together nourishes relationships.
Yet, eating time can become extremely stressful for parents and children. Because parents have certain notions about healthy food. And children don’t want healthy food, they want food that’s fun.
Children also want food that’s fun to play with. And parents find it revolting when children begin to eat what they’d been playing with.
So, eating time turns into a fighting time.
But it need not be the case all the time.
There are certain things you, as parents, can do to handle fussy eaters:
- Go grocery shopping with children.
- Send a variety of food in the tiffin for the school.
- Introduce them to new food items everyday.
- Understand that vegetables look different to you. But to children, they look the same.
- Have tea parties at home. Introduce new food at that hour. Children take to food more kindly if they see their friends eating with them. The word “party” itself sets the mood up for all kinds of experimentation.
- Don’t force the children to eat. This develops an unhealthy attitude towards food for a lifetime.
- Don’t say things like, “promise me, you’ll finish your food”. Because this is a sure shot way of damaging their relationship with food for years to come. Food is not a matter of promise. Eating is not a chore to be done.
- Be patient. What they’re not eating today, they may eat tomorrow.
- Ask your own parents about your own eating habits in childhood. That should give you a reality check. And you’d start empathizing with your children.
- Instead of consuming mindless entertainment, watch fun and educational videos about different types of foods. There’s plenty of material out there about good, healthy food. The videos are made specifically for children. Most of them are animated and they hold children’s attention well.
- Encourage conversation about energy and health. Instead of saying, “Eat this food”, try talking about why we need food at all. Which food to eat is the step after that.
- Involve children in cooking and preparing food. They might only observe you. Or they might help you move stuff. Or they might place vegetables as toppings or spread butter on the food items
- Prepare a routine of food and follow it. Children forget quickly, especially things like foods they don’t like to eat. But more importantly, even adults forget to. Have a chart ready and stuck where everyone can see it easily. Your children may not be able to read it but they’ll see you consult it and follow it religiously. They’ll know you’re serious.
- Keep the junk food out of children’s reach. Or even better, don’t store such food at home at all. If the children know there’s cake at home, why would they eat bread?
- Watch your own eating habits. Parents forget that they themselves are pretty selective about what they eat. Your children notice when you refuse to eat something. Perhaps, they’ve been only copying you all this while.
Your children may questions about food. Sort them out. Maybe they’re just having a bad day.
Do not give up. Children don’t readily accept a new food the first time. That doesn’t mean they’ll refuse it forever.
Watch out some more tricks to handle your picky eater !!