No sooner do you have the baby than you start the whole “job” of feeding them. You quickly “learn” that this is your first and most important job through the emotionally hazy moments post-birth. It’s almost diabolically unfair that this one aspect of parenting starts as one of the most personal moments you have …. and then it turns (often very quickly) into something that seems to be everyone else’s business too. When it comes to raising a fussy eater, truth be told, your own mental health is rocked to its core. Simone Emery shares her tips for caring for yourself when you are caring for a fussing eater.
Given the already immense pressure on parents, throw in a fussy eater and mental health concerns are high. I know it’s sometimes easier said than done to “look after” your mental health as a parent. As a society we need to work towards seeing the act of safeguarding our mental health as being something as important as packing swimmers and sunscreen for a beach vacation. So, when you have a fussy eater, what can you do to look after your mental health?
My first tip is to surround yourself with quality evidence-based information from a trusted source. You are the best person to advocate for your child. Nobody knows them the way you do. You are the best person at feeding them. If something doesn’t sit right with your trusted knowledge, investigate it and be like a dog with a bone when it comes to finding out more. There are many root causes to fussy eating and there are a range of tools and ideas that can inspire you to be on your child’s team throughout all of this.
Secondly (but probably most importantly across parenting), keep an eye on your anxiety levels. Feeding kids is not easy and don’t think that anyone’s “front of stage” posed photograph tells the story of what happens “behind the scenes”. Find a way to have quality, calm time before meals. Keep devices and screens (immediately before and during meals) to a minimum from the get-go. Find your family’s “get out of jail” card for when meals aren’t going very well. For us, we would stop and do some star jumps and give some big bear hugs. The sensory reset button for your tribe needs to be activated in a positive way. Eat, or be with them, while they eat. Make a point of not fussing over them, just be there and present for their whole 5-10 minutes of meal-time attention span.
Although, these tips may seem simplistic, I do know firsthand how hard it is to sit and listen to the kids when I have a writing deadline due. Or a notification beep on my phone sitting tucked away in the kitchen. Or a million toys scattered on the floor that I could just clean up instead of sitting “pointlessly”. But on the contrary, the POINT is never wasted when you are there with a smile.
About Simone Emery
Simone Emery is a Sydney mum to 2 girls and children’s feeding specialist. She helps parents of fussy eaters through her in person and Skype classes as well as guest speaking at various events. She co-wrote the Happy Mealtimes eCourse and has authored 2 eBooks for busy parents wanting happy eating experiences with their kids.