By Stephanie Walsh, M.D., Medical Director, Child Wellness, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I had a great day with the kids and my husband. While the rain cancelled most of the soccer games, we did head out to the bowling alley and had a lot of fun! Each of my kids gave me a card – even one poem – and I admit I’m a sucker for a homemade card that says I love you mommy.
This past weekend was a family weekend at Camp Strong4Life. That means that our Camp kids and their parents spent the weekend with our team, getting introduced to Camp, before the kids come for a week later this month.
I thought it was pretty cool that so many moms spent their Mother’s Day weekend with their kids at Camp Strong4Life. What a way to be a role model for good health!
During the sessions, moms get a chance to share with each other about what they struggle with at home. One mom expressed that she does not have time to plan meals so she and the kids decide in the car what they are going to eat and where they are going to go out to eat most nights. Another mom shared that her child spends money at the convenience store on candy and treats after school while mom is not at home.
These are real struggles. And these moms are not alone. I would like to share with you some strategies that have worked for other families and might work for yours, too.
From my experience as a mom, a physician, and from listening to many parents, it’s clear how important it is for parents to understand and accept the role they play in their child’s nutrition habits. One of the most simple, yet important, things to remember is that it’s the parent’s job to plan the family meals and snacks. I know that does not seem very earth-shattering, but if you stop and think about it, it is, and it’s something that we’ve all forgotten. Here are some quick thoughts on how to make this work at home:
- Make a Plan: It’s hard to squeeze more time out of each day and it seems easier to pile in the car and pick up dinner, but carving out some time on the weekend to plan 2-3 dinners for the week is doable. You can start by planning to simply add a veggie or fruit to each dinner. You don’t have to get fancy and cook tofu and quinoa to be healthy. This is so important to your kids that we need to stop looking at this as “finding” the time and look at it as “making” the time.
- Mom—or Dad—is in Charge: Remember, you are in charge of what goes on your table – say it again to yourself – you are the boss over the food choices your child is given. That means that you don’t make any special meals and everyone is offered the same food. There isn’t a power struggle over what you prepare because you are in charge of it. Keep meals pleasant and sitting down to eat fun (see last bullet point). This is an important topic…so more tips to come on this in the future for sure.
- Mix it Up: Plan to prepare foods that you know your children like as well as some new foods. Don’t pressure them to eat but continue to offer. Then, over time, your children will try new foods especially when they see you eat them.
- Make it Fun: To make dinner more exciting (without going through the drive-thru or out to eat), pack a healthy picnic and walk to your neighborhood park to eat (or just set out a blanket in the yard or living room). Don’t rely on the food for fun—it’s about being together.
Are you ready to take charge of meal and snack time? You can do it!!