Many parents are confronted with challenges around meal times with their children. Phases such as refusing to eat or ‘fussy eating’ are yet again ways in which children manifest their need for independence. A child’s eating habits become an issue when they are causing him/her negative feelings or when the child is not eating enough food to stay healthy. They say that a problem which has been identified in a correct manner is half-way solved. If you have the feeling that your child has an eating problem, but do not know exactly what it is, start by keeping a record with the answers to the following questions:

  • How much did my child eat and drink in the last 24 hours?
  • What kind of snacks does my child have in between meal times?
  • What is my child eating and drinking?
  • What is my child not eating and drinking?
  • Does my child het more attention by refusing to eat than by eating what is on offer?
  • Do we have a mealtime routine (e.g.: sitting around the table together?)
  • Are there any distractions I could stop? (e.g.: Is the TV on? Are brothers and sisters arguing?)
  • How is my child feeling? (e.g.: Is he/she feeling worried, angry, upset?)
  • What do I do when my child does not eat?
  • Are there any physical difficulties (e.g.: choking?)
  • What is my child doing before and after mealtimes?

Now that you have gathered consistent information related to your child eating habits, you are probably wondering what can you do to help your child. First and foremost: be kind to yourself and keep calm! Do not blame yourself for things you think you should have done differently in the past. Focus on what you can do now and in the future. Look after your emotional Self so that you can help your child feel relaxed and confident around food. Remember that children need constant encouragement to try new foods, so let your child have a taste of your food. Moreover, make sure that you notice and praise the positive behaviours, rather than the negative ones. A child who receives attention for a behaviour (positive or negative) will most likely to do it again. Environment and routine are two key factors in determining your child’s eating patterns. Here are some suggestions which might come in handy when you are out of ideas on how to get your child to eat:

  • Make sure that mealtimes are as relaxed as possible. Children, just like adults, find it difficult to eat when the atmosphere is tense;
  • Ask for your child’s help in preparing, cooking and tasting the food before you serve it at the table;
  • Give your child an amount of food that they can eat;
  • Eliminate from the menu any sugary foods and drinks;
  • Limit the daily snacks so that your child does not feel full before mealtimes.

One piece of advice in the end: your child has to feel hungry in order to understand the utility of eating so, once in a while let them bring up the topic of food, rather than asking them constantly if they are hungry or what they want to eat. Good luck and bon appetit! 🙂