food, food, food (part 2)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Here’s where we delve into the practical part of the food issue. You can read the first overview here. I shared how frustrated all these food issues makes me, so what are we doing to try and ease our children’s pain and issues?

These are some strategies that work for us:

  • Snack bags – The kids help me make up a snack mix, usually with mostly ‘healthy’ ingredients. A typical mix for us is animal crackers, goldfish, cheerios, dried fruit, and nuts. We then pre-place the mix in small portions into snack bags. Typically I will place the bag beside the child’s bed after they are asleep at night. It doesn’t work for us to send them to bed with the bag right off because they’ll eat it, and then have nothing for when they wake up hungry and anxious. Some mornings the snack hasn’t even been touched. It’s just enough to know that it’s there.
  • Fruit baskets – Fruit is available most of the day in our home. I do cut them off after awhile because, well, the fiber. I don’t have the energy or stomach fortitude to deal with multiple GI issues because my kids have eaten way, way too much fruit.
  • Therapeutic feeding – One of the exercises we do involves me feeding the kids snacks. They aren’t allowed to touch any part of the bag, of the snack. I place it into their mouths like baby birds. This is an intimate exercise - huge trust is needed for the child to comply. It reinforces the fact that the parent is the one who provides food for children. This is key for kids who come from places where that didn’t happen.
  • Regular snacks and meals – I try my best to keep blood sugar leveled off. Regular mealtimes; lots of little healthy snacks. The kids behave better, they have less anxiety, they’re more calm and more secure when this happens.
  • Food Stuffing – Small bites. One bite at a time. It seems simple, yet it is something that our kids have had to be taught and reminded of continually. Small bites. One bite at a time.
  • Pica and other food safety issues – We’ve tried to deal with this rather matter-of-factly. We don’t punish; we talk about safety. We state firm boundaries, but always in a safety context. It’s hard to explain why it’s not safe to eat some stranger’s leftovers or why we don’t eat food out of the trash or why we can’t eat an entire container of gummy vitamins. We just do the best we can in simple terms, but always with the repetitive “It’s our job to take care of you. We don’t want you to be hurt or sick. We want you to be safe.”
  • Night wanderings – In our house, food is the cause 99% of the time with this issue. We have a child that is awake most of the time while the rest of us are sleeping. He wanders about, gets into things, makes peanut butter sandwiches, who knows what else. It became a safety issue when we realized that medicine and other non-food items were being ingested. Since we can’t trust that all he’ll do is get out the peanut butter, and since he doesn’t awaken us to tell us he needs something, we had to take a safety measure. We got a simple contact door chime; so if the door is opened, we wake up to hear the chime. We can get up, ask him what he needs, and help him with it. Right now it’s for safety, but I hope that it will eventually lead to a habit of trusting us, even in the middle of the night, to care for him. If he’s hungry, he can tell us. If he’s scared, he can tell us. No matter what, he can come and wake us up and tell us.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of remedies and practices. These are just a few things that we’ve implemented here that seems to be helping. I can’t count how many times I’ve used the phrase, “There is always enough food here.” It’s sometimes just exhausting to parent children with food issues, and I hope this post can be of help to some of you. This website, Adoption Nutrition, is an invaluable resource for adoptive parents, whether domestic or international. I have referred to it many times over the past couple years.

If you’re not an adoptive or foster parent yet, I hope this has given you a little glimpse of some of the food issues that you may come up against if you start into this life. If you are an adoptive or foster parent, how you are dealing with food issues in your house? We would love new ideas!

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