Children… dinner’s ready!

Nutrition is a delicate and incredibly vast topic, especially when it comes to children

This article aims to give useful ideas to parents, to help children to have a good relationship with food

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On the other hand, if you are worried about a high food selectivity, extreme voracity, childhood obesity, etc., the advice is to contact the pediatrician, to rule out organic causes, and then a psychologist / psychotherapist to accompany you towards the resolution of these problems.

Brief strategic therapy works on children through the parents, who become real co-therapists, both because they are the real “experts” of their children, and because the child does not feel the “problem”. Through strategies set together with the parents, it is possible to dissolve fears, anxieties, scholastic difficulties and eating disorders, etc., without the need for the presence in the study of the child.

Getting to the heart of the topic, here is some food for thought:

1) “FORBIDDEN” FOODS: It is good to have a variety of foods at home, from the healthiest to the tastiest. In fact, if the latter are absent or prohibited, at the first opportunity (birthdays, snacks with grandparents, visits to friends), the child will find them so “precious” that he/she/they could abuse them, look for every opportunity to get them, perhaps eating them secretly. Instead, it is good to keep in mind that: “If you allow it you can give it up, if you do not allow it, it will be indispensable” (O. Wilde). This does not mean free enjoyment of less healthy foods at any time: an idea could be to organize “special” snacks in the family where tasty food, as well as a legitimate pleasure in life, becomes an opportunity to be together.

2) SATIETY: Children naturally know when they are full, so it is good that they can decide when to stop. Suggesting finishing the last forkful they have on their plate, if they have said enough, means to make them doubt their body sensations. Over time they will no longer listen to the stomach but will go on, hungry or not, until they clean up the plate, so they could lose their ability to listen to oneself.

It has also been shown that dishes that are too full induce children to eat beyond their needs, therefore it is better to propose smaller portions and the possibility of taking more if they wish. It is also not recommended to insist that they eat more for the fear that after a while they will ask for a snack, physiologically they need to eat smaller quantities and more often than an adult.

3) CONSTANT ATTENTION: If the child is not eating, the child will try to attract the attention of the father, mother, grandmother …, who observe the child, talk to the child, try to satisfy the child with alternatives. For better or for worse, the child feels at the center of attention and this could incentivize his lack of appetite. Sometimes it can be more useful to focus on one’s diet and conversation, a light atmosphere, listening but without excesses can change things.

Sometimes we experience the refusal of food on the part of the child, as a refusal of our own person. As Asha Phillips argues in the book “Saying no”, during a meal many emotions come into play, to the point that they might make the child’s appetite pass. The child “(…) may find it hard to digest, not so much the food as the atmosphere.” If you only cook the child’s favorite foods, worry too much about what the child likes or dislikes, the child can become insecure, which makes him/her/they even more suspicious of what is being proposed. It can be useful to propose new foods, accept that certain vegetables are not to the child’s liking but offer him/her/them to taste others. Putting a specific food on the table is a proposal, eating it first is a good example, in doing so we pass the idea that there are many good things to eat!

4) GOOD EXAMPLE: How can we expect them to eat vegetables, if we don’t? May they eat wisely if we binge or fast? Let us take care of our relationship with food, if we have difficulty let us lend a hand, only in this way can we be adults to imitate. If we have no particular problems, common sense and some good reading are more than enough!