A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how our food beliefs can limit us nutritionally – it was a really popular post to help you to think differently about what and when you eat (if you missed it you can catch up here). Today, Psychotherapist Jane Faulkner delves deeper into how our own beliefs around food shape can shape our kids eating habits from a very early age. She raises many great points and even more food for thought…
Words, Psychotherapist Jane Faulkner
Are our food beliefs as parents shaping our kids eating habits?
Beliefs are powerful, we start forming some of them before we can even talk; we form beliefs about food, about ourselves and about the world around us. These beliefs guide our life and our decision making and a lot of these beliefs are unconscious- we don’t even realise that they are running within us! We learn them from observing others- parents, caregivers, the media and the people around us.
Children watch and learn from us all of the time, they are like sponges soaking up everything they see, hear and feel. They watch how we interact with others, how we interact with them and how we nourish and care for ourselves. This early learning influences how they perceive themselves and the world around them. So how we approach food, what we choose to eat and how we eat makes an impression upon our kids.
As parents it is useful to check out your beliefs around food and eating because if you remain unaware of them, you might pass them onto your children. If you have a healthy relationship with food and eating, that’s great, however, some of us have had painful relationships with our weight, self-image and food. The best gift you can offer your child is to gently heal this within yourself.
We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage feeling, we drink, smoke and eat to shove feelings down and this is seen as reasonable behaviour. Unfortunately shoving our feelings down with food and denying them leads to loads of issues and difficulties in life. We start to link emotion with food- ‘Food fixes everything,’ ‘When I eat, I don’t feel.’
Keeping food away from the emotional arena
Try not to bring food into the emotional arena- food is for nourishing the body and the senses, not soothing the emotions. We bring food into the emotional arena when we treat for good behaviour with food, or we offer some food when our child is upset or sad. Even labelling yourself as ‘naughty’ when you eat something that you perceive is ‘bad’ is entering the emotional arena and setting yourself up for feelings of shame, guilt and body image concerns.
We are influencing our kids all of the time, for example, if you make healthy meals for the kids and then don’t eat because you are worried about your weight- your kids will notice that. Or if you make healthy, organic food for them and then grab yourself some fast food on the way home, your kids will notice that too. They generally adopt our habits and behaviours. If you ask your kids to eat vegies and you don’t or, ask them to try lots of different foods and yet limit your own choices, or if you are anxious about food and find it difficult to sit and enjoy a meal, they will generally follow your example.
Some helpful tips for raising whole food loving kids
Here are some tips to help you to keep food and emotion separate which will help in raising kids who have a positive relationship with food…
- Start to get curious about your own beliefs around food and eating.
- Ask yourself, what kind of relationship do you want your kids to have with food?
- What changes would need to happen to create an environment where that would be possible?
- Aim to be more open minded and avoid telling your kids what they will and won’t like
- Avoid labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
- Avoid linking food with emotion- ‘this will make you feel better’
- Avoid rewarding good behaviour with food- ‘Clean your room and you can have a Freddo’
- Avoid any negative self-talk about food and body image
- Encourage your kids to try any new whole foods without becoming g emotional around their response
- Model a healthy relationship with food and eating yourself
- Lastly and most importantly, celebrate opportunities to come together with family and friends to enjoy food
We are all human and all have our issues, beliefs and ways of doing life. Please be gentle on yourself and remember that all of us are resilient and capable of change. If need be, explore a new relationship with your beliefs and with food.
Jane Faulkner is a psychotherapist, registered nurse, yoga teacher and the founder of Equine Assisted Therapy Australia, an organisation that provides training, retreats, programs and individual sessions that aim to provide individuals with a new and authentic ways to grow and learn more about themselves. Connect with Jane HERE.