Have a picky eater? You’re probably worried about how to navigate the dinner table this Thanksgiving with family and friends when your kiddo just doesn’t seem interested. On a normal day, parents to picky eaters are worried that their children are gonna wither away and a holiday based around food seems to rev up this anxiety. Not only do you have to worry that your child is going to subsist on grilled cheese sandwiches for the rest of their life, now you have to worry if they are going to offend, or worse, if you are going to have to withstand endless advice on how to “fix that problem, stat”.
Picky eaters at Thanksgiving is just a recipe for anxiety! Or is it?
First and foremost, know that almost every single parent on this planet (and I’d wager the planets we’ve yet to find), has dealt with bouts of selective eating. Almost every child, even ones who eat well most of the time, have occasions where they are picky. What am I saying? It is normal. As normal as kids deciding sleep is for the birds on Christmas Eve. Up to 60% of children are picky at some point. Take comfort in the solidarity and the knowledge that your kid is being a…kid.
In addition, kids are often overwhelmed by busyness and crowding, especially if people they don’t even know well are talking at them. This alone can turn the best mini-foodie away from eating. Then look at the table. It is filled with innumerable options, that for a child, is dizzying. They may not even be able to comprehend what each item is. The vastness of food coupled with the unfamiliarity of environment is sometimes too much.
Lastly, if kids sense that their pickiness is this huge ordeal, they’ll be less likely to want to eat anything at all as they’ll feel pressured which may even present as an upset tummy.
What to do?
1.) Take a breath. Thanksgiving is about food, sure, but in modernity, it is more about family and gratefulness and being together. Re-frame your mind to focus on gratitude, conversation, and love. Look at your kiddo/s and cultivate a feeling of love and thankfulness that you all are here and can enjoy the day together. Share this with any naysayers and those who simply cannot resist giving unsolicited advice. Let them know that you are not all that worried if your child is less enthusiastic about eating any food and that you’d appreciate keeping the atmosphere positive.
2.) Make your child’s plate if you know they are hungry but are experiencing sensory overload. Keep the plate simple and small, that way if they do want to try all the different offerings, they can do so in manageable steps!
3.) Set boundaries, if need be, with your family and friends about what advice/comments are welcome and which are not. Let them know this behavior is normal and that any disparaging remarks don’t help you, your child, or them.
4.) Enjoy your feast!