GrowMama presents an important series for our readers. In the next few weeks, we will bring you Keys to Successful Parenting, with strategies to tackle some of parenthood’s biggest challenges, from Runda Ebied, an occupational therapist. The series is a glimpse of the wealth of information available in an online course that we welcome our readers to sign up for here.
Parenting is one of the most important, most challenging, and most rewarding roles in a person’s life. It is filled with many ups and downs and surprises, however, with the proper knowledge on how to solve the issues that come up with your child, you will be able to overcome these challenges and give your child the best possible care, along with giving yourself peace of mind.
Every parent wants the best of everything for their child. You want your child to eat the best, most nutritious foods, sleep as much as they need to for optimal growth, behave in appropriate ways and not drive you up the wall every day so that you can be the “best” parent to them. However, life does not always wind up that way. Some children have developmental, medical or mental health conditions that make the dream difficult to realize.
When parents experience struggles with feeding their child, some may think that the child is simply acting out. However, research shows that only 12% of feeding disorders are purely behavioural in nature. If your child is a picky or problem eater, it is very likely that he or she suffers from one or more underlying medical or sensory conditions. This makes it essential that you take your child to his or her pediatrician early on.
Children who are picky and problem eaters may appear well nourished and thrive despite their feeding problems. Some can even be overweight, which can make health care practitioners unaware that there is a feeding problem.
So what is the difference between a picky eater and a problem eater?
- Will eat less than 30 foods
- Will be very selective about what foods he or she will eat
- Some kids become picky because they’ve been exposed to only a few foods and have developed food preferences based on a cycle of limited exposure
- Accepts only a few foods, usually fewer than 20
- May have a strong phobic reaction to new foods, may cry, throw a tantrum, gag or vomit when new food is offered
- May not even be able to touch new foods
- Usually have an underlying medical condition causing the feeding problems
As mentioned above, it is important that you ask yourself: Could a medical problem causing my child’s feeding difficulties? The following symptoms might indicate an underlying medical condition in your child: vomiting, difficulty swallowing, colic, diarrhea, spitting food up, constipation, lack of appetite.
So what if you’ve tried everything you know, and your child still won’t eat? The good news is that there are many effective strategies to promote healthy eating with your child. First, you must be a good role model: if you want your child to eat a food, offer him or her this food often and show your child that you are eating it and enjoying it. You should also engage your child by involving them in grocery shopping and preparing meals with you.
Also important is to ensure your child joins you at the table at mealtimes. Many people eat on the go. It’s crucial that your children observe regular mealtimes and understand the expectations of a mealtime, such as sitting down quietly and respectfully, and sharing a meal with their family. Even if the child adamantly refuses to eat, you should try to get them to at sit at the table for the duration of the mealtime. They might even start to get encouraged to eat when they see their mom, dad and siblings eating and enjoying themselves.
There are a few things you should avoid as well. For one thing, do not become your child’s short order cook. Do not prepare them a new meal when they refuse to eat. Simply end the meal, and offer them another meal two to three hours later.
Education can be key to getting your child interested in food. Teach your child about the properties of food: color, shape, smell, and texture. Get them as involved and comfortable with food as possible. The more the child helps with the food, the less fear they will have of new foods.
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Runda obtained her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Western University in London, Ontario, where she also currently resides with her family. She has partnered up with the Muslim Women Success Coach website to deliver a course entailing a series of webinars regarding childhood-related issues and strategies to deal with them effectively. Runda has a passion for working with children and has experience working with children with various disorders.