Children can be picky eaters for all sorts of reasons. I grew up in a family of finicky eaters, I was one! So I love helping parents and children with this. But not all children who seem picky are making choices. In some cases, it’s more serious.
About a third of my clients are children and young people, anywhere between 7 and 17. The work will generally centre around an issues that parents identify and bring along. But it’s the child who is the client, so I always start where the child is, often weaving in the child’s concerns and those of the the parents. The most common issues are anxiety, school reluctance, sleep or food. In this blog a I’ll look in more depth at the issue of food.
When a parent has a child who has trouble eating, it can be a cause of real concern for the parents. The child may be reluctant to try new foods, restrict the foods they will accept and reject others often without trying them. After years of trying different foods, they may have stuck to plain and safe feeling options. These ‘safe’ options are often bland and beige. Foods like toast, chicken nuggets pasta chips. Sometimes this may be just the child being picky, or asserting themselves to be allowed to make choices. This can still be a worry, but if the child is continuing to grow, and has the energy to play it’s probably not a serious concern medically.
Parents often worry that the child isn’t getting enough variety, not having the full healthy range of vitamins and minerals, micro and macro nutrients. They may have visited the GP and perhaps talked to teachers or other professionals to get support with getting the child to eat.
Here are some things to try at home if that hasn’t got your child where you want them to be:
1 Try to avoid making food a battleground. Keep it calm.
2 Set a great example by eating a wide range of foods yourself.
3 if your really worried try vitamin gummy bears or something similar.
In some cases the child may have a condition called ARFID (Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder) this is more serious and if you think this is your child, you might need help from a dietitian. Speak to your GP, who may be able to refer you to a child Psychologist and an NHS dietician. But the waiting lists are long, so I’ll be happy to provide support if you prefer to get something started sooner.
A child with ARFID May have a crippling fear of trying new foods and be anxious around them. After consulting with a Doctor and taking an ARFID test, it can be established that this a eating disorder is unrelated to body image. It’s a fear of the food, of trying new foods and the effect that might have. Children may shake,scream or even Vomit when new foods are introduced. Naming the problem can help, validating for the child that They have a condition, and will be listened to. That we know they are not being naughty or silly. It’s support the child can then begin learning how to overcome this disorder
ARFID, is a type of feeding and eating disorder that is characterized by the avoidance or restriction of food intake. It is different from other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia because the focus is not on body image or weight. Instead, individuals with ARFID may have a fear of vomiting, choking, or certain textures or tastes of food.
ARFID can be particularly challenging for children, as it can lead to nutrient deficiencies and impact their growth and development. This is why it’s important to talk to a dietician, while I can’t refer into the NHS, I can refer you to a dietician privately and then work alongside them to provide support. However it is really important to talk to your GP and get a diagnosis, to explain to the child’s school and to others around them.
As a qualified Play Worker and a qualified Hypnotherapist I would work to support the child and parents with the anxiety or fear related to food, and help them to feel more comfortable around food.
It is important to remember that ARFID is a real and serious condition that can have significant consequences if left untreated. By seeking support and treatment, children with ARFID can develop a healthier relationship with food and reach their full potential.