Social expectations around feeding our kids can feel incredibly daunting and remarkably unfair, especially when the standards are often unrealistic and ever-changing. However, there are some helpful strategies that parents can use to overcome these expectations and find more confidence in their own approach to feeding their children.
1. Develop a healthy relationship with food
First and foremost, it’s important to develop a healthy relationship with food yourself. If you’re constantly worrying about what you’re eating and how it might impact your child’s health, you’re likely to feel even more pressure when it comes to feeding your child. Instead, focus on building a positive relationship with food that emphasizes variety, balance, and moderation.
2. Prioritize your child’s needs
It can be easy to get caught up in what other parents are doing or what you think you “should” be doing when it comes to feeding your child. However, it’s important to prioritize your child’s individual needs and preferences. This might mean trying different approaches to see what works best for your child, rather than just doing what you think is expected of you.
3. Seek out supportive communities
Feeling isolated and alone in your parenting journey can make it even more difficult to resist social expectations of perfection. Seek out supportive communities, whether in person or online, where you can connect with other parents who are also struggling with these same pressures. Working with a registered dietitian can help you develop a personalized plan for your child’s nutrition; that’s what we specialize in here at Whole Family Health.
4. Focus on progress, not perfection
Perfection is an impossible standard, and trying to meet it can lead to frustration and burnout. Instead, focus on making incremental progress over time. Celebrate the small victories, like when your child tries a new food or when you’re able to find a healthy option that they truly enjoy. Remember that small changes can add up to big improvements in your child’s overall nutrition and nutrition is all about trends and patterns, not individual instances.
5. Let go of guilt
Guilt is a common emotion for parents when it comes to feeding their children. It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re somehow failing your child if they’re not eating the “right” foods. The “right” foods are those that you feel comfortable feeding your child and that your child enjoys. So if you’re doing the best you can and showing up for your kid, you should know that you’re doing enough.
Social expectations can create undue stress and pressure for both parents and children. But if you focus on your child’s individual needs and preferences, seek out supportive communities, and prioritize progress over perfection, you can let go of the guilt and feel confident that you’re doing great. Remember that small changes can make a big difference, and that you’re doing the best you can as a parent. With time and practice, you’ll develop more confidence in your approach to feeding your children and be better equipped to meet their unique needs.