Developing a healthy relationship with food starts at birth. Feeding newborn infants when they are hungry and not based on a schedule is the first step in developing this complicated relationship. The human brain at birth still has billions of brain networks and synapses to develop. From birth to approximately age five so many connections are made. The brain is literally forming in response to the people, the environment and the experiences that surround it. The food we give our children, the atmosphere we create for them in which to eat and most importantly, the symbolism we attach to food, often subconsciously, are just some of the factors that help define our relationship to food. Cultural differences play a huge role. In some cultures, food and gathering for meals, especially eating very specific foods becomes a part of our identity. Societal pressure for certain body types escalates anxiety around food and its effect on our bodies. Eating disorders in our country are very high compared to other countries and the age of onset is getting younger and younger. These statistics cross gender lines. Men and women are both suffering from these disorders. SO what can a parent do? As I mentioned, it all begins at birth. Teach eating healthy foods and try not to fall into the trap of not offering your child foods that you you think they “don’t like”. Keep in mind that it generally takes at least 22 exposures to a food before a child truly determines if they like it or not. Don’t stop trying! Shake it up and offer it in another form. Take your child grocery shopping with you so they can be involved in the preparation process. Believe me, it will all make a difference. With all of that said, remember that being too restrictive can backfire on parents. It is human nature to want a little treat every so often. Allow your child to have “treats” very moderately and do not offer them as a reward for desired behavior. Incorporate exercise into the family dynamic. It is really great bonding time to go and take a walk together. It is such a parenting win. It is good exercise and it also provides a forum for deep discussion within the family. These conversations are a big brick in the foundation of your life long relationship with your child. In another post, I will address the concept of the family meeting. Once again, the core of this discussion is the concept of conscious parenting. Think about what you want to teach, make decisions proactively and I promise you, it will allow you to truly be the parent that you want to be.
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