5 Tips to Help Manage Your Child's Mealtimes Icon
5 Tips to Help Manage Your Child's Mealtimes

“It’s not about the food, but it really is about the food” is an adage widely heard from caregivers and eating disorder specialists alike. That’s because while your child is receiving treatment for the underlying issues that are manifesting themselves as an eating disorder, you must ensure that your child receives proper nourishment and relearns healthy eating patterns.

It’s not easy. In fact, managing mealtimes can be the most stressful part of a parent’s role in their child’s recovery, especially since you are overseeing several meals a day.
 
Below are 5 mealtime tips to utilize while your child is in recovery from an eating disorder.
 
  1. Mealtime is not the time for discussion or processing. Give directives and do not engage in food discussion or negotiations.
  2. Provide CLEAR expectations and be consistent/predictable. Think “broken record” by stating:
    • Desired behavior
    • Desired timeframe
    • Reinforcement behavior
    • The consequence for not completing behaviors. 
  3. Provide validation for the struggle, while also communicating confidence in your child’s ability to manage it (e.g. “I see how hard this is for you, and I know you’ve done a great job at handling hard things recently.”)
  4. Outside of meal/snack times, find out from your child how they prefer to be supported at meals/snacks.
  5. Ensure that your other children know that they are not responsible for redirecting your child.

There are bound to be some rocky mealtimes with your child. Above all else, remember that consistency is essential.

 Making “exceptions,” giving into bargaining or looking the other way are easy traps to fall into during those days when you feel worn down. Remind yourself that these are just difficult moments and that wavering will only create more difficult moments down the road.
 
Being resolute in your approach to mealtimes is the most loving thing you can do for your child.

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