10 Tips to Survive Holiday Family Dinners with a Picky EaterDec 07, 2021
It’s holiday time and after a difficult pandemic and challenging period of isolation from friends and family, people are gradually beginning to gather again. Holidays are a time to celebrate, come together, laugh, talk, and share. Eating and food are central to life, but food represents so much more that calories and nutrition, it’s about giving and receiving love and sharing our culture and traditions.
If someone has lost a loved one,
We bring food.
If we have a new neighbour,
We bring food.
If we are going to a party,
We bring food.
Food is essential to the human experience, but when a child has feeding difficulties like extreme picky eating or food aversion, celebrations can be extremely stressful for both the child and caregivers.
- For the child, the combination of unfamiliar foods paired with pressure to eat can be very overwhelming.
- For the parent, the fear that their child won’t eat coupled with judgement from friends and family is an extremely stressful combo.
Parents tell me that they dread mealtimes with extended family because grandparents often pressure their child to eat, which they know will create stress and will not help their child with food acceptance.
Parents also confess that they dread going to a friend’s house over the holidays because it makes them sad to see the other children eating so easily and so well.
Parents express that they fear going to restaurants, as there may not be anything on the menu that their child is able to eat. They feel judged when they have to bring food from home.
Parents say that they feel watched and judged by others…. that friends and family never fail to offer unsolicited advice about how to get their child to eat better.
10 Holiday Survival Tips for Parents of Kids with Feeding Difficulties:
- Let the host know in advance that you child has feeding challenges.
- Feed your child before the event in case they don’t eat well at the party.
- Ask the host to please have something available that your child is able to eat.
- Bring a safe food from home that you know your child can eat and enjoy.
- Prepare your child by talking about the event and which foods will be available.
- Have a firm but polite response ready for those who comment on your child’s eating.
- Remind yourself that you're doing a great job.
- Let go…don’t let it get to you. No-one knows your child like you do.
- These are your holidays too. Breathe and allow yourself to enjoy them.
- If you are hosting, encourage your child to help with food preparation and serving.
10 Tips to be The Host with the Most:
- Be kind, understanding, and non-judgemental.
- Ask your guests about the types of foods their child is able to eat.
- Consider a buffet, where the guests can choose their own foods.
- Allow your guests to bring a safe food from home for their child.
- Give some of the kids “helping jobs” like serving food to others.
- Avoid judgement or comments about the child’s eating difficulties.
- Don’t take it personally if the child doesn’t eat anything at all.
- Remember not to give any advice.
- Avoid pressuring the child to eat or “try” foods that others are eating.
- Enjoy the mealtime together. Share laughter, food, and conversation.
I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Give yourself a break...I suggest lowering your expectations about your child's eating and feeding progress during the holidays. It's a busy, hectic, and often emotional time of year for everyone. Kids and families are out of their regular routine. Be kind to yourself and take a break. Celebrate and spend time with your friends and family. In the New Year you can get back to working on all of the great strategies you were using to help your child learn to be a more Adventurous Eater. Click on the list of tips below to read previous blogs to help your child overcome picky eating:
- A regular feeding schedule with 3 hours between meals and snacks
- Limiting milk and juice intake to allow appetite for food
- No distractions at the table
- Encourage independence and self-feeding
- Family meals offering fun conversation and connection
- Repeated exposure to new foods
- No pressure to eat or "try" new foods.
- Cooking together
- "Helping jobs" like serving foods to others or bringing food to the table
- Playing with and exploring foods during sensory activities
Sharing tips, research, and advice on feeding.