Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Parenting is hard. We are faced with a multitude of decisions to make as a parent. From which socks to buy – this is harder than it seems at first glance, to letting them take the car keys, we are constantly bombarded with decision making. Quite frankly it can get exhausting sometimes.

What happens though when we see our kids struggling with body image or self-esteem issues? How do we help them without hindering them?

As is the case in all parenting, we want our kids to be able to talk to us…and we need to remember to listen first, even if we think we have the exact right piece of advice. If we can keep our lines of communication open, we are in the right space to be able to support our children.

In childhood, there are natural patterns of growth and change that occur during development. Sometimes this means that bodies gain weight before they stretch out, that a big pimple pops up on picture day or that it seems like everyone else hit their growth spurt before they have.

Being a kid in many ways seems easy once you are an adult. We can appreciate the lack of responsibility, the opportunity for naps and having other people provide for your needs. What we tend to forget is that it can be difficult to figure out who you are, what you like and how to stand up for yourself on our journey to adulthood.

While I certainly don’t have all the answers and am on my own journey through parenthood with its mountain peaks and valley lows, I do have some advice for feeding your kids well through it all.

When I meet with younger clients, they are usually in my office because their parents are seeking guidance and support. Often in the case of teens, they are making the call themselves. The most common issues are very selective eating and weight concerns.

Here are my top 5 tips for parents when establishing a solid foundation for healthy eating…

Don’t talk about weight at all. Talk about healthy food choices as a family. While weight is an indicator of overall health, it is not the gold standard. As a society, we focus far too much on numbers whether it is on a scale or the size of our clothing.

Parents are the gatekeeper for food coming into the house. While you may not be able to control what your child eats outside of your home, you are more than likely the one doing the shopping and paying for it. Don’t want them eating chips? Don’t buy them. Instead offer freshly popped popcorn and orange slices. Make the foods you want them to eat easy to grab and go.

Be a good role model – whether it is for exercise, food choices, prioritizing responsibilities and how to treat other people. Whether it seems like it or not, our kids are always watching and listening.

Learn to listen to your body…and teach your children to do the same. Our body sends us messages all the time. The trouble is that sometimes we have a hard time noticing what is happening. Often times we are so distracted by what is happening around us on the television, computer and our phones that we fail to notice actual full or hungry signals. Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions before grabbing food. When is the last time you ate? Did you eat enough then? Are you hungry or bored? Have you drank enough water?

Trust your child and their growth and development patterns. If you are concerned, speak to your health care provider first and take note of their previous growth patterns. This can give you some important information about their current development. If there is reason for concern after speaking with your health care provider, then go back to tip 1 and give me a call!