The world of nutrition focuses a lot on what you should (and shouldn’t) be eating. So, when adopting, it’s only natural that most of the advice that parents get has to do with what they should be getting in their child’s stomach. What to feed for certain deficiencies, catch-up growth, etc. And while that’s all super important information, if you don’t know how to feed those foods, then the what may not be doing much good.
Teaching our kiddos how to eat is so, so important. A lot of mealtime battles are fought because we are so over focused on what foods are being eaten, that we’ve failed to teach the skills for having a good family mealtime. With a newly adopted or foster child, make sure you are spending ample time teaching and training on the how‘s of eating. This may mean loosening your grip on what is eaten for a while.
There are certain eating skills that your child should master as a preschooler. If you are adopting or fostering an older child, you may need to go back and work on some of these skills before you will be able to make much progress in his or her nutrition. I’ve adapted the following list from a list written by Ellyn Satter in Child of Mine:
Your preschooler should…
- Like eating and feel good about it
- Be interested in food
- Enjoy being at the table
- Be able to wait a few minutes to eat when hungry
- Rely on internal cues of fullness and hunger to know how much to eat
- Rely on changes in appetite to know what to eat
- Enjoy a variety of foods
- Be able to try new foods and learn to like them
- Be able to politely turn down foods he/she doesn’t want to eat (at our home, our kiddos are welcome to say “no thank you” but never “gross!” or “yuck!”)
- Be able to be around new or strange food without getting upset
- Be able to make do with less than his/her favorite food
- Know what is expected of him/her at the table and show reasonably good table manners
- Be able to eat comfortably at places other than the home (first he/she must master eating comfortably at home)
If your child is younger, make these your goals for them to master. If you are working with an older child and see some gaps in his/her eating abilities… then start there. Some kiddos from tough backgrounds will need extra support in mastering some of these skills. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you find your family in that situation!