For several children, this traditional model works well enough. But kids who have experienced neglect often feel anxiety around food. Some take or hide food even when there is more than enough on the table and in the pantry. Others fly off the handle when a snack is delayed or denied.
When children have been malnourished or have repeatedly had unmet hunger needs, survival instinct kicks in. Whether you are finding empty candy wrappers beneath your child’s bed, or are faced with daily meltdowns right before mealtime, kids with food anxiety are often haunted by a primal fear that they will starve.
The good news? You can create an atmosphere where your child experiences that they are truly safe in their home with you. Lessen your child’s fear about food by increasing access to it and sharing power with them. Sharing power tells children that caregivers hear their voice, see their needs, and will meet their needs.
For a child with food insecurities, reassure them there will always be enough food to eat in your home. You may find the following tips helpful:
- Invite your child to help you make a grocery list including their favorite healthy snack items.
- Let your child choose a special food container that belongs only to them. It can be a basket, a storage tote, or something fun like a trendy bento box or lunch box.
- Write your child’s name on the outside of the box and ask if they want to decorate it.
- Find a special place in the refrigerator or pantry to store the snack bin.
- Explain to your child that they can have anything from the snack container whenever they want it.
At first, this shift may be hard for us as parents. Sharing power can feel scary, but it doesn’t mean we give up our role as caregivers. Instead, it allows our children to make decisions and feel heard while we are still in charge.
At the end of the day, if my child’s choice to eat yogurt, an apple, and crackers right before dinner “ruins” their appetite for my homemade lasagna, so what? My goal as a mom is to provide nutritious food and teach my child they will never go hungry again.
If you want to better understand your child’s food issues or learn more about sharing power, contact Chosen today. Our care managers are ready to walk alongside you on the road toward healing.