In my experience, every mums group/playgroup/school class includes exactly one child who finds mealtimes particularly difficult. It's like someone decided that the parents of these children must never be able to swap stories of woe with other parents in their social groups. I know that lots of the mums I work with tend to feel judged by other mums who have children they'd consider to be good eaters. I'm not saying that's actually happening, but I do know a lot of parents of fussy eaters feel very alone. And that's not helpful for anyone!
So, what are the stats? Estimates suggest that at least one in every four healthy children experience mealtime difficulties. This number jumps up to four in every five children with a developmental delay. Children with a developmental delay may not be meeting developmental milestones, or have received a developmental diagnosis like autism. So, that blows my one in every mums group theory out of the water. It's more common than we realise! Perhaps we just aren't talking about it enough...
I think it's incredibly important to reassure parents that their child's eating difficulties are absolutely not caused by anything they have or haven't done! One of the problems with not having others to vent to, means that parents get stuck in a vicious cycle of doubting their approach and feeling guilty about everything. They also get told, repeatedly, about how they can 'fix' their child's fussiness. Again, most parents I work with have at some point had to politely grit their teeth and clench their fists while another well-meaning person suggests that they try 'making their child's lunch look like a smiley face'. It's almost worse when a doctor tells them to just stop worrying. This is like telling the sun to just stop shining for a while. Parents feed their children at least five times every day. If even half of those meals and snacks are difficult or stressful, then it's no wonder that parents start to dread mealtimes.
So, what do I suggest? Get it out in the open. Talk to people, but maybe ask them not to respond if they're a 'smiley face' suggester! Work out what's happening for your child, and how you can help them through these mealtime difficulties. If you've tried that and you're still stuck, please get in touch. We can work it out together, and get you on the path to enjoyable family mealtimes.
Kyla offers in-home appointments for fussy eating and childhood nutrition issues in Perth, WA. Phone and email consultations also available.