With no parenting experience, becoming a foster mom to a 3- and a 5-year old was a transition in more ways than one.
Alongside establishing a bedtime routine, introducing healthy discipline, and wiping poopy bums, it was also important to me that I feed these little ones a nutritious diet. Knowing my foster kids may only be with me for a season makes it feel even more urgent to teach healthy habits that will last beyond their time in my home.
It didn’t take long for me to get a handle on each kid’s eating routines. My 3-year-old boy was an eating machine who asked for a snack every 15 minutes, while his 5-year-old sister was picky as can be. With one overeating and the other barely eating at all, I knew something needed to change. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
My first step in addressing overeating with my 3-year-old was to consider whether there was an underlying cause such as trauma or a medical issue. When I became confident he was simply asking for food (1) because he was bored and (2) because he liked to eat, I felt comfortable setting some boundaries.
The solution came in establishing a healthy, consistent routine of one nutritious snack between each meal. I stocked up on a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cheeses, and then gave him 2 to 3 options to pick from each time. From my perspective, I was feeding him nutritious foods in healthy portions. From his perspective, he was eating yummy snacks!
Within just a couple of weeks, he was asking for food much less often, because he could be confident a snack would come. As an added bonus, I also noticed behavioral improvements, which I credited to a well-fed body and brain!
Navigating Picky Eating
My first instinct with my picky eater was to have her sit at the table until she finished her plate, because I was afraid she wouldn’t get enough nutrition otherwise. I quickly learned, however, that this tactic doesn’t work. After everyone else left the table, she would just sit there content to continue not eating.
The difficult truth I had to swallow was this: I can’t make her eat. This is where wichealth.org's “Solving Picky Eating” lesson came into play. The lesson included a resource titled, “Parent and Child Roles,” that changed the way I approach picky eating. Here was my main takeaway:
The parent's or caregiver's role is to offer a variety of nutritious foods.
Your child’s role is to decide which of those foods, and how much of each, they want to eat.
One way a parent puts their role into practice is to “Trust your child to eat the amount needed.”I’ll admit, this came as a totally new concept. I thought it was up to me to decide how much this little one ate, but understanding the difference between my role and hers set me free from all the worrying I’d been doing. I also learned to introduce new foods slowly, while always including something I know the child already likes.
This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Melania.
About Melania. . .
Born and raised in Metro Detroit, Melaina and her husband now serve as a licensed foster family. They foster out of a desire to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with each child who enters their home. “Every child has a purpose. Every child is worthy of love. And we’re the ones who get to show them!”