Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

March 14, 2017

Mealtime Stress: What if It’s Me?

By: Heidi Moreland, MS, CCC-SLP, BRS-S, CLC

Although children with health and developmental challenges are at a higher risk of developing feeding problems, all children are susceptible to mealtime pressure. Last week’s post discussed the fact that mealtime pressure or a focus on healthy eating can actually backfire by creating more stress around mealtimes and food intake, resulting in even greater discord around food.

However, it is also a parent’s job to provide healthy foods and develop appropriate limits and expectations for their children. Navigating that balance can be extremely difficult. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you are bringing greater stress to the table.

1. Do I talk about anything besides food and eating at mealtimes?

2. Do I have a mental tally of the number of bites my child has eaten during the meal or over the day?

3. Do my childrens’ books and toys tend to focus on food and healthy eating?

4. Do I spend more time looking for recipes or foods to tempt the picky eater(s) at my table than I do reading them stories or playing with them?

5. Do I find myself saying “take a bite,” or “eat your food” more than 5 times per meal?

6. Do I bribe my kids to eat or to eat certain foods?

7. Am I the only one who can feed my child “the right way”?

8. Do I cheer or clap at every bite to encourage them to eat another?

9. Do I focus so much on intake that I don’t allow other people to enter the room, talk, or do anything that might “disrupt” the flow of eating?

10. Do I know the calorie and nutrition information of any food that makes it to the table?

If a number of these sound true for you, it is likely that you are contributing to the mealtime stress. This week, take a look at your mealtime behaviors and put yourself in your child’s place. Does it feel like you are trying to sell something? Would you want to listen to you if you were seated together at a dinner party? Too much focus on food, even praise, can have a negative effect. If you can’t stop thinking about it, it probably shows. Next week we will look at some things you can do to protect your child from your stress about food.

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