Any adoptive or prospective adoptive parent(s) will know that while incredibly rewarding, adopted children aren’t without their own unique challenges, with issues surrounding attachment, anger, and change being quite common. Another common issue that adoptive parents are less aware of is issues surrounding food. In this article we’ll be exploring what kind of food issues these are and why you adoptive child might display them, as well as offering some practical parenting solutions to overcome these challenges.
Why do Adopted Children Have Food Issues?
While not all adopted children will present with issues with food, problems such as hoarding, overeating, and obsessing are common, largely due to the instability your child has experienced in their lives pre-adoption.
Many adopted children have had a challenging start to life. They may have experienced neglect, abuse, poor institutionalized care, poor foster care placement, or other instabilities in their early months or years. This can result in the child not being fed regularly, or in adequate amounts, or even suitable foods.
It is this fear of not knowing when the next meal will come that often drives adopted children’s food issues, resulting in them hoarding or overeating food as a safeguard, or gobbling down their food quickly before it can be taken away from them. If the child has been fed food which is unsuitable, or has been fed a limited diet, they may have food phobias or fears of trying new foods or different textures, which can make ensuring they receive the correct nutrition a challenge.
Food Issues: The Tips
There are a variety of great parenting tips you can use to help your child overcome their food issues. However, it is important to always put your child first and work at their pace, negotiating coping mechanisms that work best for your adopted child’s unique situation and needs. You may find some of the tips mentioned below helpful, while others may be irrelevant, as all children are unique.
- Regular Feeding Times: You should feed your child at regular intervals, aiming for 2-3 hours for younger children and 3-4 for children that are older.
- Portions: Let your child decide the amount they eat from the food you give them. Don’t try to force them to eat everything on their plate.
- Snacks: Avoid giving snacks or eating between meals where possible.
- Eating Together: Eat meals together with no distractions, as children with food issues will struggle to eat in stressful or distracting situations. Eating together also creates a great bonding opportunity!
- Reassurance: You should regularly reassure your child that there will always be enough food.
- Encourage, Don’t Force: You should encourage your child to try new or different foods, alongside their ‘comfort’ foods, but don’t force them. Instead, let them explore the new food options in their own time.
Most importantly, with all issues your child might face, patience and understanding is the key to overcoming them. Changes never happen overnight, and your child will need gentle guidance and reinforcement over a period of time. With time and care, however, you’ll be amazed at what your adopted child can achieve.