This week I had the pleasure of talking with Tony Pilkington on FIVEaa about how family mealtimes can make a world of difference for our fussy eaters (for those who missed it, there is a link to the audio file at the end of this post).
Following on from the blog post about how COVID-19 restrictions may have inadvertently helped many families rediscover the joy of preparing food together and sitting around the table, my interview with Tony reminded me of some core facts that are helpful for every parent, grandparent and carer to remember:
- Eating is complex – in fact it is the most complex sensory skill that we undertake each day. It is also a learnt skill and one that can be easily derailed by even just a couple of bad experiences (challenging flavours or textures, a near choking incident, lack of variety early on)
- Sitting down to eat is important – not only does this reduce the risk of choking but sitting at the dinner table also allows kids to better learn about the foods in front of them, become familiar with them and therefore become more likely to try something new. If kids are always otherwise distracted while eating they won’t pay proper attention to learning the smells, tastes, flavours and textures that result in a lasting enjoyment of a wide variety of foods.
- Children want to please their parents – if they are pushing back on the food in front of them, there is most likely a very good reason why. Understanding that refusing foods is a more difficult route for the child than accepting foods is a really important step in both of you finding solutions and exploring new foods together. As a parent, don’t take food refusal personally. They are refusing the food, they are not saying you haven’t put in enough effort or they don’t appreciate the meal they have in from of them they are just saying “if I eat that food it is going to feel worse than disappointing you by refusing it”.
- Family mealtimes don’t need to be a battle – there are many ways a child can contribute at the family dinner table, even if they don’t eat the food in front of them. This is why family mealtimes are so positive in so many ways (read more about the list of benefits in my blog from 8 May here).
- You’re not alone – one of the most rewarding components of my work is when families and fussy kids realise the problems they are experiencing are actually very common. So many people struggle through without talking to anyone, often out of embarrassment or fear of judgement about their parenting style – having a fussy eater doesn’t make you a bad parent, and being a fussy eater doesn’t make you a bad child! There are lots of really fun solutions, so don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask for some help.
Listen to Emily's interview with Tony Pilkington on FIVEaa by clicking the below icon.