There is a lot of pressure at Christmas. Some may come from your own expectations, some from family members. If you have a child who has issues with food, the pressure can be even higher.
Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson are the authors of Food and Your Special Needs Child and here they share their tips for a relaxed Christmas meal.
- The first thing to do as a parent of a child who eats selectively is to relax! This is easier said than done, but avoiding stressing about mealtimes will improve the situation for you and your child. Research has shown that pressuring children to eat can actually end up with them eating less. Children who are not pressured will eat more.
- This isn’t the time to try new things. If your child likes the same food at every meal and hates change, don’t use the Christmas meal as a chance to introduce something new. Although it may seem like a hassle to cook two meals, having something on offer that you know will be eaten can take the pressure off you and your child. Save trying new foods for another day.
- An alternative to this is to introduce Christmassy foods during December, so your child knows what to expect.
- Talk to visiting family members in advance. We all know the grandma or aunty who feels compelled to get the children to ‘eat their greens’, or who piles everyone’s plates higher than they need. If your child would prefer a small meal, or hates vegetables, have a quiet word first up. Explain that, for example, today you are having a day of fun, and tomorrow you’ll get back to making sure everyone has a balanced diet.
- Stick to your rules. You may also need to explain to visitors about the rules you have that make meal times work for your family. Other generations may be shocked if your child needs to sit on their own to eat, eats only certain foods, or can’t wait to eat with the family. However, explain in advance about your child’s eating issues, and how this helps, and they may be more sypathetic than you think.
- Keep it simple! Don’t plan complex meals if you suspect everyone would rather have something plain and easy. There is no need to cook Brussels sprouts and gravy to accompany your roast if, in fact, few members of the family enjoy them. It can be hard to negotiate the balance when your father-in-law wants all the trimmings, but plan in advance and …
- Make a list. The simplify it. We all cook far more than we need over Christmas. Taking a cold hard look at your plans at this stage can save waste later. Also …
- Accept help! If your mother-in-law says that they always have special gravy and bread sauce, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without them, ask if she can bring them over. See point two, and explain, however, if your child hates sauce with his food!
- Finally, eating can be more fun with friends and family, and your child may surprise you and enjoy his Christmas lunch!
Information from this article is based on the book Food and Your Special Needs Child by Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson. Children with special needs and disabilities may have accompanying issues with food and eating. This practical guide for parents will help navigate this often difficult terrain. In typically developing children, eating problems are relatively common, affecting 20 – 40% of children. In children with special educational needs and disabilities, eating problems can be even more common; they can be severe and can take many different forms. Anyone who has a child between the ages of two and nineteen with an additional need and a food or eating difficulty will find this book useful. Discover the origins of how we eat, and get practical tips from experts, plus read what has worked for other parents in similar situations