Picky Eaters During the Holidays: A Parents Survival Guide
What a wonderful time of the year! Parties, shopping, presents and gatherings – it is a time people look forward to all year. But if your child or teen is one of the many picky eaters out there, the level of stress that you may be feeling over upcoming family meals or parties may be overwhelming.
What will my child or teen be able to eat? What kind of snide comments will I hear from family members if she only eats mac and cheese? Will grandma make me feel awful if she sees my son still drinking from a bottle? Will my child be cranky and starving if he does not get his usual foods, which will make the whole day miserable? What if my friends think I am a bad parent because my daughter will not try things? Does anyone know how stressful having a picky eater is on the family, especially during the holidays?
Below are helpful tips from a feeding professional that you can use so you and your family (including your hesitant eater) can attend functions with more holiday cheer and less bah humbug.
Get things out in the open!
Let your family know what is going on and prepare easy explanations beforehand. Let your loved ones know that your child is receiving intervention and educate them. Here are some examples of what you could say:
- “Layla is sensitive to certain smells and textures. She used to not even be able to be present when I was cooking but she has come a long way! She is now able to eat things that made her throw up before. We work through these things in therapy.”
- “Joey’s tongue doesn’t always move the food to the sides of his mouth to chew properly. This makes things that should be easy to eat hard for him.”
- Have some stock responses for well-meaning relatives who enjoy giving advice. A simple “thanks, we got this” or “no, he won’t just eat if he is hungry enough” may do the trick.
Talk it out
Talk to your child or teen about your expectations. Will this be a “free” day? What is the expectation for sitting at the table? Planning things out before the event can help alleviate issues during dinner. Preparation and communication are key.
Ginger, Vanilla and Nutmeg! Oh my!!
Holiday dinner smells are wonderful to us, but may be overwhelming to our sensitive eaters! Prepare accordingly and prep your child so they know there may be smells they are sensitive to that you have no control over. You can practice and expose them to these smells at your own house beforehand. This may avoid any shocking meltdowns upon arrival.
Prep the Head Chef
Simply let the host know what is going on. This may avoid any awkward in-person situations. You will eliminate the feeling that you are offending anyone if your child refuses to eat anything that is being served, or they may even prepare one of your child/teen’s safe foods available for everyone at the table.
Holiday time does not equal a therapy session
Remember, this is one meal! You get all week to practice in therapy. If having noodles during holiday dinner and skipping the veggies keeps the peace, let it be.
Fill up the tank
Consider feeding your child or teen before showing up. This way, you know they are getting what they need, plus it avoids any off-putting questions from people asking about their feeding habits. Besides, if it is a bigger group with lots of kiddos running around, nobody will even notice they are not taking part in the food part of the day anyways.
Get into giving!
Volunteer to bring something to share that your child or teen loves to eat. That way, you know there is at least something there they will devour that you are not pulling out separately for them. By doing this, your child or teen can eat what they know without anxiety, and as a bonus, you have contributed to the party. Even more, you are not drawing extra attention to their feeding behaviors. Win-win!
Breathe and give YOURSELF a break. It is your holiday too!
We all want our holidays to be perfect. Sometimes when we have gatherings, family, advice, AND a picky eater it feels impossible. But remember, you spend every day improving your child’s or teen’s eating habits. It is okay to take this day and make it special and peaceful by implementing some strategies, and simply enjoy!
Kelly is an SLP and a feeding specialist who also specializes in using hypnosis, among other tools, to support feeding difficulties, weight management, and anxiety. If you have questions, please reach out to Kelly at Infinity Hypnosis. Kelly can answer your questions over a free phone consultation where she can further discuss feeding therapy and/or how hypnosis works and how hypnosis could help you or your loved one’s specific needs. Contact Kelly and Infinity Hypnosis at [email protected] or check out her website at https://infinityhypnosis.com/ to book a free consultation.