Happy New Year to those celebrating the lunar new year! I always love holidays that are centered around family, friends and yummy food. That being said, once you have children, there is another element that is added to these family gatherings which often makes them stressful for parents – the many eyes of family members which feel like they are judging your parenting habits. For many cultures, there seems to be a laser target to how your child eats.
The comments may be around your child’s size (“What a big boy!”) or how they eat (“What a good eater!”) These comments may roll off a parent’s back if they are more positive as noted above, but when they feel negative, it often causes parents to stress. This stress is often felt by the child and the child will internalize a message. Dependent on the child, the situations and what is said, these messages can be anything from “I can’t listen to my body signals, mom/dad/grandma/etc knows best,” “I’m not good enough,” to “You eat when you feel stress.” Although often not meaning to, these emotions often lay some of the foundations for eating behaviours in children.
In my family, I often deal with doting grandparents always offering sweet (what some may consider “forbidden”) foods. They have had difficulties accepting my child not wanting sweets at times, with sayings like “what, you don’t want ice cream?” to “there’s always room for dessert.” These comments, although meant with good intentions can put negative building blocks in a child’s foundation as it may make a child feel shame and guilt that they are not accepting the ice cream, may make a child worry that they will not be loved if they don’t accept the ice cream, and/or may result in a child accepting the ice cream to ensure she stays in grandma’s good graces, overriding her ability to self-regulate and be satisfied, which causes her to deny her body’s signals.
If this sounds familiar to you, I would love to hear from you and know what challenges you experienced during the holidays.