It's the first week of a brand new year. Everywhere, you are being invited to create a new you; to make ambitious new year's resolutions; to make some changes. If you are the parent of a picky eater, you might be thinking that 2017 is the year you are going to going to nail it and make stressful meals a distant memory.
I actually love a bit of 'fresh-start' energy. Sometimes, it's good to take stock and start anew. Especially when a problem has been dragging you down for months or even years. The beginning of another year is a great time to focus your attention on any issues that need addressing rather than simply letting them rumble on...
But I'm not writing this post to suggest that you use the new year as a jumping-off point for getting to grips with your child's eating. Instead, I want to invite you to take a snap-shot of where you are today and then in precisely one year's time, I'd like you to take the same snap-shot and see how far you have come.
Many parents I work with are extremely self-critical when it comes to their child's picky eating. A key part of my work centres on sharing the message that a blame mindset is at best unhelpful, and at worst, really unfair and emotionally damaging. Part of learning not to beat yourself up about your child's relationship with food is connected to learning to appreciate the small steps, celebrate the tiny wins and recognise all the great stuff that you do.
I've been thinking about why so many amazing parents don't seem to see the progress that they are genuinely making, and asking myself how I can help with this. I think the answer to the first question is that we are so close to our children's eating - our personal perspective is from extremely close-to.
I've written elsewhere about shifting the goal-posts so that the small gains become more appreciable, but sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees. We see what is happening day to day, not month to month and certainly not year to year. This makes it very hard to spot the baby steps in the right direction.
Secondly, when it comes to eating, helping children learn to eat a varied diet is all about making miniscule changes that take time but have a lasting impact. It's rare that parents have an 'amen' moment and one piece of advice changes their world. Usually, it's about hard work, persistence and two steps forward, one step back.
Finally, picky eating gives rise to genuine anxiety. If you are having sleepless nights because you are worried your child isn't eating enough and is finding meals really hard, these powerful emotions will get in the way of you recognising that actually, you are moving forward.
In order to help you recognise the progress you may be making with your child's eating, I have put together a 'snap-shot' pdf, which you can download (for free) and then complete digitally. It's only one side of A4 and won't take long to fill in. In it, I guide you through a brief overview of where you are currently at with your child's eating.
Save it on your computer and in precisely one year's time, I will email everyone who requested this resource with the same snap-shot form to complete. You can then compare the second form with the one you completed this year and see what has changed.
If, in 12 months, you see that things are getting worse or that you have not moved forward at all, this is also really constructive because it will help you be honest about where you need help,* but in my experience, most parents who are at the stage of seeking information online and reading up about picky eating (which I assume you are doing if you are reading this post!) are actually doing fantastic things and are helping their child move forward, often without even realising.
* Please note: this snap-shot is not an alternative to seeking professional support. If you have any concerns at all about your child's health, you should contact their primary health care provider.