Eating disorders are very common in childhood. Children refuse to eat healthy food, so that vegetables and fruits are not their favorite foods. Many parents will tell you how difficult it is to get a child used to eating new kinds of food: “The child scowls at the broccoli flowers in the tomato dressing and refuses to eat”.
This tendency has an evolutionary rationale: preventing exposure to dangerous or poisoned food. Moreover, refusal to eat specific types of food is particularly common in the early years, and in most cases does not threaten the child’s health. Even so, you should consult your pediatrician if you have any doubts about your child’s eating habits
This child’s parents struggle with him daily over food. The five year-old child has a fixed menu for every meal and rejects any other nutrients. Interestingly, our analysis of his drawings suggests that he has a subdued and risk-averse temperament: his drawings are performed very carefully, he moves the drawing instrument slowly and the pressure on the page is mild. Children with such a temperament will tend to prefer a fixed and structured menu: just as they dislike changes in other areas in their lives, they would rather have as little changes as possible in their menu. In some cases we can witness the opposite trend, when children’s drawings are impulsive and forced. When discussing food preferences, we should recall that there is a group of children with increased sensory adjustment. For this group, the food preferences are related to texture rather than taste.
How to deal with children’s eating disorders?
- Candies tend to be the children’s first preference. When a child eats candy, he will search for it again and again, so that his body will get accustomed to a regular supply of sugar. Hence, it is important to reduce the availability of candies at home and to maintain a balanced routine of candy eating: preferably in the afternoons.
- Keep serving your child a variety of foods and serve as a role model by maintaining a diverse diet.
- Do not make an issue out of food – repetitive lecturing on the importance of food might cause undesirable power struggles.
- Do not offer a candy as a reward for eating wholesome food: this way, the child might understand that eating is a punishment or an effort that requires a trophy.
- Make sure your child does not demand his candy as a substitute for emotional feedback, for example after getting hurt. If he does demand it, it is important to demonstrate to him the relation between the two – candy and getting hurt – and offer an alternative, such as a hug and comforting words.
Children’s eating disorders are caused by several behavioral or personality factors related to the parents and/or child. Analysis of children’s drawings allows to better understand the source for their difficulty and eating disorder. It offers a window into their inner world and the causes for their attitude towards food.
Diagnosing a child’s personality in an individual manner, while taking into account the nutritional aspect, allows you to understand where his difficulties lie. The suggestions and solutions drawings provide, will enable you to cope with children’s eating disorders better than ever.
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