Happy April! Sunshine and spring are here! And so are family gatherings, play dates, parties, sports, & more! Feeding our kids during this busy time of year should bring us joy and contentment. Right? But SO many parents (including myself!) are feeling GUILT. Read on for 3 tips to find joy in feeding your family this spring.
But if you've been feeling guilty about feeding your family lately, you are not alone. Guilt is a normal, natural feeling that occurs when we feel like we've done something wrong or crossed a moral/ethical boundary we set for ourselves. But COVID-19 has propelled us into a situation that we have little to no control over, yet a large part of our lives have been drastically interrupted. As a result, we feel like we are doing something wrong, even when we are doing the best that we can.
I hear from a lot of clients that they are knee deep in family feeding GUILT. And I have three kids ages 5 and under, so really, I get it – COVID parenting is HARD. We have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs in my household. But when the going gets tough, I like to take a step back and remember that usually small, simple tricks can make a big difference – and take things from feeling meh to feeling good.
So here are a few simple tips that I rounded up to help my family – and yours - stress less & enjoy more during this busy but exciting time of year.
1. Have self-compassion.
It's hard to let go of guilt when we are holding onto it. Take a step back, accept where you are and what an awesome job you have been doing raising a child(ren) / family during a PANDEMIC.
Hug yourself & take a moment to let yourself feel SELF-COMPASSION.
An exercise that I like to do that I learned from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to imagine what advice a close friend of mine would give me about my situation. What would they say? And how would I respond? Almost always, I know that their advice/opinion on my situation would be a lot friendlier and accepting than how I view my own situation.
2. Remember and honor the Division of Responsibility in Feeding by Ellyn Satter.
The Division of Responsibility in Feeding is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and backed by several decades of high-quality research, clinical experiences, and anecdotes. I like to summarize it as:
The parent provides & the child decides. In other words, it is the parent’s responsibilities to provide foods, determine when food is offered, and determine where food is offered. It is the child’s responsibilities to decide how much to eat (as many servings as they like) and if they will eat (they may choose not to eat).
If you, the parent or caregiver, are providing mostly healthy, balanced foods (and even allowing for some sweets & treats!) throughout the day – that is great! You are doing your part successfully.
Now, I struggle with this myself. There are plenty of times where I want to tell one of my children – just take two more bites of your food! Or, please, just take a bite of that vegetable! But, I remember this rule and bite my tongue. And sometimes, my kids surprise me! And everyone is better off in the end.
3. Set realistic expectations.
You may feel guilt, failure, or shame because you feel like you aren't meeting certain expectations. For example, you may feel guilty because the meals you make (or haven't been making lately!) aren't where you want them to be. It is important to keep in mind that where you are now isn't where we will be in the future.
One thing that you can do, right now, to alleviate guilt and bring more control into your life, is to reclaim your family's health goals that have fallen off track (I LOVE this Podcast episode by Jill Castle, MS, RDN that gives great tips on this - check it out: TNC 126: How to Recapture Your Family Health Goals in 2021 - The Nourished Child). Like something that is really important to you that you may not be doing right now, and is a main driver of that guilt.
Some ideas/examples are:
Eat dinner together more regularly
Cook meals 3 times a week instead of ordering takeout or eating "quick grab" meals
Meal prep in advance - pack balanced snacks (check out my IG post on this!) and meals in advance, so that you know "quick grab" meals are healthier options
Have designated times and a place for snacks
Create a meal schedule that works for you and your family
Now, to successfully accomplish this, start with simple and realistic objectives. Focus on ONE thing you would really like to restore in your family's life, and work on that over the next few weeks. Once you feel like that aspect has comfortably become part of your day-to-day routine, move on to the next objective.
For example, your overall goal may be to “get my family to eat healthier.” But what does that mean to you and your family?
An example of an objective to support that goal might be:
Over the next 2-weeks, I am going to plan, prepare, and cook 2 homemade dinners during the week instead of get takeout.
This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART!).
Try this exercise for yourself and let me know how it goes in the comments!
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! :-)