When busy parents rush home and the first thing they do is rush to put dinner on the table, they are often perplexed when junior won’t eat. The same child who was cranky from hunger before the parent arrived may be much less concerned about dinner when the parent appears.
What’s going on? Parents are goal oriented, busy and scheduled. Little children are interested in the returning parent, not the schedule of chores that need doing before bedtime. They missed their mommy and daddy. Children show they want some attention and affection. In most cases, bonds restore easily with a little attention. When parents give a little time after returning from work, bonds restore easily. A little playtime before the meal makes dinner easier for everyone.
Sometimes, however, the longing for parents creates more serious eating problems. Longing is part of the picture for 2-year old Amanda, a child I am seeing for food refusals and slow weight gain. Early in the therapy, we examined Amanda’s growth chart. We realized that Amanda’s significant weight increases occurred when mom, a teacher, was home on extended holidays. Part of the problem also lay in with feeding, speech, and movement delays. A confirming clue appeared. Despite her ability, Amanda refused to hold her own bottle. It was as if she wanted to be babied and did not want to grow up. Her stay-at-home dad helped, too. Amanda’s eating improved when we tightened up the schedule and she fed herself with less assistance. Mysteriously, she began to hold her own bottle. Amanda has been growing taller rapidly. Her rate of weight gain increases more slowly. Mealtimes became less challenging. Then, a new problem appeared.
Amanda began to vomit her bedtime milk. She could not afford to lose the nutrients. I guessed that Amanda needed more time with her working mom. I suggested that mom and Amanda go for a little walk after dinner. An after dinner stroll fit the family schedule, improves digestion and creates unhurried time for mother and daughter to hold hands. Sometimes, dad went along. Vomiting ceased within a week. Amanda’s parents’ attention to the interplay of emotional and eating set everyone on the right path. We are all looking forward to more progress.