Real Life Strategies: Responsive Feeding Works

"There's a world of difference between insisting on someone doing something and establishing an atmosphere 
in which that person can grow into wanting to do it."
~Fred Rogers

Sit still!

  • Thing is, some kids need to move to be calm and regulated. So please throw the old adage to sit still during meals out that window. Instead, offer options that work for your family.
  • Encourage your child to sit at the table on a yoga ball.
  • Schedule movement breaks: 10 jumping jacks right before mealtime; start a timer for 5 minutes, and then 10 wall pushes, etc.
  • With time, your child will be able to stay at the table longer and longer; adapt strategies as needed.
  • Don’t forget to create an atmosphere of “felt safety,”especially before mealtimes.
"If they need to leave the table to get regulated again, it's about accommodation, 
not punishment. It's a connected, co-regulated, and compassionate experience."
~Eileen Divine

“She never tries new foods. He is the pickiest eater ever.”

  • Try on a new way of looking at your picky eater: was their brain affected by trauma so that they have real sensory sensitivities to certain smells, textures, and foods.
  • Be honest; you are pressuring this child of yours to eat; now STOP IT! (It could even be subtle, wherein you say, you can have dessert after you eat that broccoli.)
  • Serve meals family style.
  • Make sure you offer your child something they like at each meal.
  • Encourage nutritious and preferred snacking throughout the day.
  • Include dips, sauces, toppings, and even sprinkles to encourage trying new foods.
  • Serve dessert with the meal. You read that right: give it a try.
  • Don’t forget to create an atmosphere of “felt safety,” especially before mealtimes.
Naureen Hunani, RD, a neurodivergent dietitian and childhood feeding expert, talks about how flexibility 
works with...families. 'Why have a 90-minute meltdown because a child would like crackers with a meal? If
it's otherwise not causing problems, increased flexibility supports self-regulation and the feeding 
~Excerpt from Love Me, Feed Me

“I’m worried that my child is underweight/overweight.”

  • This is a tough one and oh so common for children who have come from hard places. We, as parents, want to get in there and fix them. This is where those power struggles can rear their ugly heads. Try these approaches instead:
  • Allow your child, whatever their age, choice over their food. Invite them to the grocery store with you. Let them buy those cookies as long as they also choose a nutritious item or two.
  • Create a menu with your child. It is OK if they are eating some different foods than the rest of your family.
  • Cook with your child. Talk about creating opportunities for connection.
  • Be prepared to introduce a new food at least 10 times before your child will touch it.
  • Start a food intake journal to help you see progress and keep perspective.
  • Serve meals the family style way.
  • Accept your child as they are now, including their size and how they eat.
  • Expect slow progress with these methods. Maintain a long term perspective.
  • Don’t forget to create an atmosphere of “felt safety,” especially before mealtimes.
"Your child needs radical acceptance of his body. He needs to know he'll have access to his favorite foods, 
even if you're serving less-preferred options alongside them. He needs time to pursue the activities he 
loves without worrying that they aren't physical enough. He also needs space and support to explore
ways he might enjoy moving his body-but he won't feel safe doing that if he's worrying about what his body
represents to you, or to other people around him." 
~Virginia Sole-Smith, Burnt Toast newsletter

“My child eats way too fast at EVERY meal.”

  • Model eating at a slower pace for your child.
  • Do not tell your children to slow down as that often backfires, creates anxiety, and can cause even faster eating.
  • Be patient as this issue usually resolves on its own with responsive eating family methods.
  • Overeating can be a sensory seeking mechanism so explore other options like super crunchy foods, fizzy drinks, very sour things, etc.
  • Cut food up into tiny bites, put smaller portions onto smaller plates, and allow seconds.
  • Take a break to do a breathing exercise during meals.
  • Don’t forget to create an atmosphere of “felt safety,” especially before mealtimes.

There are many other strategies that can be tailored to your unique family in Love Me, Feed Me.  Again, I encourage you to either purchase or borrow the book from JFS. Please contact Kim Kupfer for more information.


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