Week 1 Food Therapy Update:
The book our Therapist recommended, Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Selective Eating, Food Aversion, and Feeding Disorders by Katja Rowell MD, was pivotal in our thinking and approach not only with our on but also meals in general. This book, which you can get here, hits home on so many levels. I realize now that it would be easy to be defensive and list the reasons why our method in getting our child to eat something besides bread at all costs was justified, however I'm discovering it was not. No shame or guilt, no judgment. We did what most American parents would/have done when in our shoes. The thing is, it wasn't working! This book really gives thought provoking examples and questions to ask ourselves. Are we really asking our children to comply with things we wouldn't dream of allowing others to choose or force us to do? Taking anxiety away from food/dinner table is key to a healthy relationship with food and eating. How much are fear/control driving our dinner table bus? I believe the strategies and truths in this book are helpful for ALL parents. Educating a child about nutrition is one thing, but when our "educating" has shame, guilt, fear, or even conditional love & acceptance attached, it sets us on a road that can lead to destruction. The biggest eye opener- even positive reinforcement at the table such as if you eat all of this you can have XYZ (dessert/iPad time/sticker on your chart) can add unintended pressure to eat to please. Or worse condemnation when the child just can't comply for what ever reason. So much on my heart as I read this book. 3 years ago I would've told you this was NOT good parenting. But I have witnessed the "good" we thought we were doing backfire. In less than a week I've seen this kid try food he never would've before, simply because we are allowing him to have control over his plate. It complicated, messy and there are no easy ones size fits all answers.
I am amazed that 1 appointment with our therapist and a book- (let's face it I've read 100's of articles/books) have changed our world in so many wonderful ways. We no longer feel alone. We see our precious boy is willing to try things! He is just as exhausted from this as we are. We are so glad the Lord put us on this journey with the support system we have now found.
We took the next step in establishing an anxiety free atmosphere around food in our home. It's stretching us, changing the way we think, respond and present meals. Tonight, my precious boy came reluctantly. I hadn't noticed how cautiously he approaches the table. I used all the energy I had with a migraine hangover, to set us up for success. Protein, fat & carbs check! (Thanks to my husband grilling skills!) at least 1 "safe" food check! And kid portion dessert served with the meal, no strings attached, check! After he bounced out to tell his brother the goodness of cookies on the table, I turned to Michael with tears. He says the perfect thing, "We didn't know, & he didn't know either." It's true, we have had no idea just how much stress he has carried to the table for so long. He hasn't known for sometime what it feels like to be excited to sit down to a meal. The heart matters, so glad to take the Lords lead and try parenting this from our Heavenly Father's perspective. 2 sandwich cookies but the sweetness is so deeper than that.
That same night Alex asked to try a banana. He didn't actually eat it- but he licked it! (He didn't even want to touch it with his hands. This was a huge win because it was ALL his idea. I didn't even have bananas in the fruit bowl but he recalled us buying them. In bed that night he said, " I really was very disappointed in that banana. I really thought I was going to like it." We just continue to encourage him that just because he doesn't rate it a 10 today doesn't mean someday it's number wont get higher. (The higher the number the safer the food feels for him)
We wrote our new food and mealtime "rules" on our chalkboard in the kitchen by the table to keep us all on the same page. Over the next two days, I would hear him in the kitchen repeating several times "No one has to eat anything they don't want to eat." The first time I was actually in the kitchen with him and I said, "Yep that's right Alex no one..." He interrupted in the sweetest voice- " I know mom, I'm just reminding myself!"
Finally, yesterday- Dad was traveling on business, I was still feeling exhausted from a week long migraine- so I slipped into an old habit and for the first time in 7 days, I served the boys dinner and I didn't sit down. As we were cleaning up- Alex said, oh yeah that was dinner! I almost forgot because you didn't sit with us."
I am starting to see how important the structure that Michael and I provide around meals is an extremely important aspect of this journey. Structure and boundaries create the feeling of security and safety. When we feel safe and secure trying things that we feel less sure about doesn't seem as overwhelming. I will write another post later on the parent role vs. the kid role in all of this but it really is a stand alone post and one that the Lord is continuing to reveal to me each day.
The past week has been full of such seemingly tiny changes in guarding our words and empowering his choices has already led to more break thru than we have seen in over a year. We are hopeful about the journey ahead.