The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for some it can cause more stress than wonder- and not because of the Christmas carols on the radio playing OVER and OVER and OVER.
The Holidays often mean lots of family meals with more and more delicious food available than might otherwise be on any given Tuesday. For kids this can be very exciting, I mean who doesn’t love having all of their favourite foods served and the opportunity to enjoy them surrounded by people who love you. But as adults the season of parties and meals and family often brings more stress than enjoyment. We get pre-emptively anxious that we will overeat, or gain weight or worse that our kids will overeat and our kids will gain weight. Sounds familiar?
Think about it, how many parents are familiar with the scenario of walking into a party with your kids in tow and feeling worried about the amount of food they would be met with?
How many of us are guilty of reminding our kids before they’ve even crossed the threshold not to overdue it? Or warning them that their tummies will hurt if they eat too many treat foods?
Now, the beauty of the human body is that when we overdue it, our tummies hurt. That’s our body’s way of telling us that maybe this time we gave it too much for it to handle. Our bodies have natural “consequences” for when they feel like we may have gotten carried away and they’re really good at letting us know that maybe next time less is more. For ourselves and our children learning to pay attention these internal cues or consequences is a wonderful lesson.
When we remind our children before not to overeat or worse when we remind them after the fact that we had told them not to overeat we take away their internal consequences. Instead of focusing on how their bodies feel and learning to listen to their internal cues, we replace it with EXTERNAL consequences. We give our children the consequence of mommy or daddy being disappointed, specifically at what or how much they ate.
The unfortunate thing is that listening to external cues instead of internal cues is one of the reasons we as adults are stressed before we enter the party! After years of looking outward for cues of how much we should be eating they start looking like:
Delicious food available…..I should overeat
I’m going to feel guilty if I have dessert anyway….I should eat five slices
I’m definitely going to have to go on a diet after this……I should eat as much as I can before I do.
I’ve put it on my plate…..I have to eat until it’s all gone
This holiday season instead of re-inforcing the idea that anyone else knows your kiddos body better than they do, remind them that their tummy is perfectly able to decide what they do or don’t want to eat. Remind them that it’s okay to take seconds or leave some on your plate and that delicious food will ALWAYS be available to them. If they are telling you that they are very full but don’t want to miss on the cookies that only come around once a year, ask the host if it is okay to pack one up for tomorrow! Or maybe make it a family tradition to do two nights of Chanukah or Christmas treats so that your family members don’t feel like they only have one opportunity.
As parents its our job to remember that the opportunity to sit down and eat as a family is one of the healthiest things we can provide for our children. We run the risk of ruining that experience when we focus on whether or not our kids are choosing the “healthiest” foods on the table. As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that we provide a wide array of foods, but only our kiddos are responsible for if and how much they eat- EVEN if on that given day it looks like “too much” to you.