OK, time to get real: for many parents, meal time is a stressful, agonizing event that leaves one feeling exhausted, drained and asking, “how did we get here?” So how do meals become a stand-off with our children instead of an enjoyable time where we connect and share?
What I have learned from experience and in conversation with many parents is that parents stress a lot about meals – and many try to control all parts of food and eating behaviours. Now I will be the first to admit that I like having control. In fact, in my early parenting days I had a long list of parenting do’s and don’ts. But the reality was and is that parenting successes only happened when the responsibilities were shared among all family members. Reducing stress at meal times in my home meant I needed to let go of a little meal time control and embrace a positive approach to eating. I find the Division of Responsibility in Feeding by Ellyn Satter outlines the responsibilities of parents and children when it comes to feeding clearly and simply.
So how do we build that trust with our children around eating? Here is a list of do’s that will make meal time much more enjoyable:
- Eat meals together, as this will create happier meal times and allow you to role model the healthy eating behaviours you wish to see in your child.
- Remember that not all children eat the same way – some graze and separate while others explore and fill up fast.
- Allow your child to stop eating. Children understand when they have had enough and regular meals and snacks will help them become even more self-aware.
- Allow your child choice as this will help them to develop a sense of responsibility. They don’t have to eat if they don’t want to, but if they are hungry they have the choice to eat what has been prepared.
- Honour food favourites. We all love eating foods we enjoy, so planning a favourite meal for the week with your children gives you time together and a meal to look forward to.
If you give a few of these tips a try, I am sure you will be saying “Bon Appetite” in no time! And please share with us how you and your family make meal times a happy time.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.