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Friday, September 6, 2013

Aliens have landed at our house - getting Oscar to eat

For those of you who have followed this journey, you will know that Oscar has a difficult relationship with food and I am endlessly trying new ways to get him to eat (preferably something healthy). As I move on to a new strategy each time I think there is no way I can come up with another way to entice, encourage, trick or bribe Oscar into at least trying new foods...but then, I find another way. He still goes through phases of only wanting a bottle and refusing all food, usually when he is tired or sick, and then we are right back at square one - again - and yet, we find ways. So I thought I might share some of those ways that we have found that work (sometimes) and that might help some of you out there reading this who have children who associate food somehow with trauma/pain or who have had children who have had a nasal feeding tube and other medical/psychological fears regarding food. Also, it might help some mums out there with just plain fussy eaters.

Before I do so, I just want to share a little conversation I had with another mum whose child is currently going through chemotherapy treatment. What was amazing to me was her description of her child's reaction to the meals she presents. It sounded so similar to Oscar that there must be something in it. I just finished a parenting course that focuses on emotional coaching and that linked in with the literature the hospital recommended to me for helping build resilience and emotional intelligence in children. This is particularly helpful for children who have been through some emotionally challenging life circumstances but really applies to any child because we all have emotions, we all have trouble understanding them and we all need to learn ways of managing them appropriately. Anyway, this mum described exactly what Oscar does when I present a new meal to him - it is an extreme, screaming, shaking terror that gives you the impression that the food is somehow going to hurt him. This makes sense in that Oscar had mucositis during his chemo and the ulcers throughout his digestive system and mouth genuinely hurt him and also, after that, I suppose there is the fact that chemo makes everything taste awful, like metal. And if you add to that the fact that Oscar was having treatment from ages 18 months to 3 (years that are important for experimenting and trying new foods) then I guess that is why the emotional reaction to food is so fear based - and so challenging to manage.

Anyway, this mum described to me her child's reaction to food and as it was so similar to Oscar's it made me wonder how common this is among children who have had similar medical intervention in their early life and why no one really can assist you with this in any real practical way. The hospital dietician will tell you what they need to be eating but there isn't a lot anyone can do unless they come home with you, observe the child and offer some practical tips to change the behaviour.

So, its back to trial and error, like everything in motherhood, and maybe if I share some of the things we do to address this issue it might help some other mums out there. So I will post a different strategy I have tried, what worked and what didn't, over the next month or so.

I'll start with breakfast. This is Oscar's least favorite meal. He could just as easily skip it, or would prefer to have a bottle and laze around with it. He's like Pete, not a morning person, and likes to ease into the day. Currently, the strategy that is working is to make it exciting for him. So most mornings we are having 'Aliens' for breakfast - this consists of an egg as the eye of the alien and two pieces of bacon as the mouth. Auden has a goggle eyed alien as he likes his egg in an egg cup and his alien also has hair (toast cut into small pieces). This works a treat so far and is making my mornings significantly easier. Here are some photo's:



We eat them together at the table where there are no distractions and the boys get a sticker once they have finished everything on the plate. Rewards don't always have much of an impact on Oscar (mostly, he couldn't care less) but Auden loves them which creates a bit of competition (something Oscar loves). 

Good luck to all you mums out there trying to get good food into your kids and get them dressed and out the door in time for school/preschool. It can be a test on one's sanity.

Thanks for checking in on us. I have been unwell for some time (just the usual winter lurgy's not wanting to leave) but the boys are well and Pete is working too hard but doing very well too.

I am sending all my love out to you and your families and hope you are doing well and having as many moments of domestic peace as possible. Much love, Cindy x





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