While attending Gillian’s EATING LESS ONLINE webinars earlier this year, there was some discussion in our Facebook group about our children’s eating, and the messages we send out to them. The webinars had helped us become more aware of these issues in ourselves and, especially for those of us with young children, we inevitably started thinking about what we might be creating for them. I have a three-year-old son, who like me certainly can eat addictively, and I’ve thought over the years about how I might support him in developing a healthy relationship with food.
Children, of course, are unlikely to be able to process any concept through verbal explanations alone. Instead, at least in large part, they learn through watching or copying the behaviour of those around them – including our reactions to other people’s behaviours – rather than simply following what people tell them they ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do. They are always trying to work out what’s ‘normal’, and often want to emulate their parents – at least up to a certain age! In this way, eating together is a powerful teaching time.
I have come to realise that to promote good eating in my child, perhaps the most powerful thing I can do is to have control over my own eating, at least some of the time. I don’t want to be a ‘perfect’ role model, but I do want to be an example of trying – even at times when I’m in a struggle with it. I hope, in this way, he’ll learn about facing and maybe overcoming challenges rather than doing everything perfectly, because life always throws things in our way!
A helpful insight for me has also been to notice when I may be using my son as an excuse for overeating. For example, deciding to eat out, or to buy certain things to eat. My initial thought may be that I am reacting to his wants or needs, but when I dig deeper I can see they are very much mine! My son’s choices are not the same as mine, and vice versa. It’s helped me a lot to try to distinguish between them.