Is your toddler, child or teen reluctant to eat in front of other people?
Does he or she have only a few foods that they prefer and are those options becoming fewer and fewer over time?
Does your child complain of physical symptoms that do not have an actual medical cause?
Does he or she complain about the “textures” of foods and refuse to eat those foods?
The “Picky Eater” is a common experience for most parents who have toddlers. In fact, it’s actually part of the normal development process for children, particularly as they begin to make basic decisions for themselves.
Issues arise when picky eating causes health problems, such as weight loss and food phobias. This can signal a more serious issue, and can also affect children, teens and even adults if it isn’t dealt with effectively early on. Fortunately, there are concrete solutions parents can use to address the problem.
Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Also known as ARFID, Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is a medical condition that may affect more than eating habits, but your health too. According to nationaleatingdisorders.org the symptoms include:
- poor appetite with little interest in eating
- fears related to eating, such as the possibility of choking on food or throwing up
- being an extremely selective eater of foods including being extremely sensitive to textures
In addition to the above symptoms, people with AFRID also have at least one of these additional symptoms:
- inappropriate nutritional levels
- a significant drop in weight or inability to gain weight
- needing nutritional supplements or a feeding tube
- psychological issues
If you suspect that your child has more than just a picky eating problem, make an appointment with your pediatrician to determine if it could be AFRID.
What Can Parents Do About Picky Eating?
There are some things parents can do at home to address picky eating with their children. For instance:
- Have set times consistently for meals. Note that for small children it may actually be hard to sit for long periods of time. Try to limit meals to no more than 30 minutes.
- Include in meals one food your child likes and will eat, but include different foods too. Set an expectation that they must try everything on their plate before having seconds or dessert.
- Be firm yet also understanding. Make the expectations about eating and behavior clear. However, also understand that this is a real struggle for your child.
- Don’t forget dessert! It’s okay to have dessert. This isn’t about punishment or deprivation, but encouraging your child to eat a variety of foods.
With picky eating, there will be times when you have to “choose your battles.” Simply try to be patient with your child and keep in mind that, for kids with AFRID, this is a difficult process.
Using Applied Behavior Analysis with AFRID
If you and your child are still struggling with eating issues consider getting professional coaching help. This is where our in-home behavior therapists can be of assistance. By utilizing in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA),they can do the following:
- Work with both you and your child to help understand why your child has eating issues.
- Analyze your child’s eating behaviors and pick out patterns that emerge.
- Teach your child better ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that come from having an eating problem.
- Help make changes to you and your child’s lifestyle to reduce the potential for picky eating and low weight to happen in the future.
Again, if you believe that your child is suffering from more than just pickiness, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. For more information on how The Body Image Counseling Center therapists can help with picky eating and other eating-related issues, click here.