Mealtimes With Family Members Can Be So Frustrating

Are mealtimes improving for your family as you implement using the Division of Responsibility (DOR), and then you struggle when seeing family members or when leaving your kids with certain family members?

This is one of the concerns I hear regularly from parents as they work on shifting their family’s eating behaviours to eating competence-based habits.

As you may be aware, eating behaviours are complex, and family dynamics are as well. Over the next few days, I will be talking about some of the common scenarios when we are dealing with family members and how we can best handle them.

As we prepare for this series, there are a few things that will be helpful for you to think about:

- How often do you see these family members?

If your answer is a couple of times a year, or in COVID times, this may be even less, then you may want to think about your answer for the next question which will affect how you handle the relationship. You may decide that a couple of weeks a year is not enough to worry about as primarily feeding is done by you, the parent(s).

If your answer is my kids are with my family member all day during the week, then you will likely have very different expectations and concerns to be thinking about.

- What is your goal/expectation of your family member?

When we have concerns, there is often a goal/agenda/expectation that we have in our minds, if we are aware of it or not. When a family members action or words do not align with our goal/agenda/expectation, then we have a reaction.

When using DOR, you may expect your family member to follow DOR, but if they are not aware of it, or they may not understand the theory behind the “rules,” they may encourage intake or use food as a reward, or some other tactic. Past experiences and beliefs play a big role in this as well, so when a family member is used to a certain way of feeding or eating, they may unconsciously resort to these tactics out of familiarity without realising they are.

- What does your family member see as their role?

Often when talking about family members, especially grandparents, they see their role very different than they did as a parent. Grandparents tend to believe one of the privileges is to spoil their grandkids. They also want to be seen as friends, definitely not disciplinarians. Depending on the role your family member sees they play in your child’s life will set up their views on interacting with your child.

Tomorrow we will delve into one of the common tactics which family members tend to use - encouraging intake. If there are certain scenarios that you are interested in, please drop me a note and I am happy to try to include them in the series this week.

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