Oftentimes when doing the work to heal our relationships with food and our body we’re confronted by the rules we learned about food from a young age. These rules were passed down from trusted adults – our teachers, caregivers, family members and community members and as children we took them as fact.
If you’re a parent raising your own children while also healing your relationship with food it can feel overwhelming. You want to break the intergenerational, harmful messaging we were passed down around food and bodies while protecting your kids from a society that still promotes those rules. And if you’re raising a child with specific dietary restrictions (e.g. allergies, celiac) it can feel even more daunting and difficult to nurture a ‘healthy’ relationship with food.
You will mess up. No one is perfect and gets it right 100% of the time. Once you release the need for perfection you can show up for your children by trying the best you can in the present moment. Even so, this can feel really difficult in the day-to-day, so here are 3 basic tips to remind yourself of when it starts to feel too complicated or you’re uncertain:
- Remove Morality
When discussing food with your children, try to remove qualifiers such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or even ‘healthy’ or ‘treat.’ Broccoli isn’t superior to banana bread and ice cream isn’t bad or needs to be earned – they all just serve different purposes. Each food tastes unique and does unique things for our body that let us run, play, learn and grow on this Earth!
- Ask Questions
Rather than setting blanket rules, it can help to ask questions. For example, if your child is refusing to eat lunch and insists on having a cookie instead, some questions you could ask are I wonder why you don’t want your lunch? How does your tummy feel? What does this food taste like and feel like in your mouth? Do you like it? If not why? I wonder what that would taste like with X (e.g. ketchup, salt, etc.) added to it? If you don’t eat now, will you feel hungry later? Asking questions encourages children to look inward and acknowledge and start to get acquainted with their bodily cues and signals and trust their bodies.
- Where possible, paint a bigger picture
Talking about food in terms of the benefits and nourishment it provides – rather than caloric content or what’s on the nutrition label – helps children conceptualize the many different purposes that different types of food serves. For example, when having toast in the morning you can talk about how the toast is helping give energy to your brain to help you think big thoughts all day, or the milk you’re drinking is helping your bones grow or how the cookie you’re eating makes you smile!
These tips are by no means exhaustive, simply a baseline to return to when it all feels a bit too much. There are great resources available for how to raise intuitive eaters from cookbooks to personal testimonies, so a quick Google search will turn up these aides and the reminder that you’re not alone on this journey. If you’re looking for further support our practice would be honored to join you in the process – you can book a free consultation with one of our therapists by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to you for doing the hard work of breaking down intergenerational pain and food rules and raising children in a society that tries to constantly tell us we’re less than. Showing up everyday and trying – messily and imperfectly – is what will create meaningful change.
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC