By Inda Brink, LMFT
Years ago, a mom in my mother’s group asked the group for advice. She admitted her child was a picky eater. My ears perked up, for I too had a picky eater at home. I knew how difficult that can be! One mom proudly stated, “Well, my kids eat whatever I make for them, and they HAVE to eat it.” Another mom said, “Everyone NEEDS to try everything that is on their plate.” With each piece of advice, my heart sank lower. The reality in my home was different. Not only was my child a picky eater, he gagged at certain foods. If we weren’t careful, he’d throw up right there at the table! Needless to say, going out to eat or going to another family’s home for dinner was not a fun event for us. We would take foods for him with us wherever we went. As I sat there in the mother’s group that day, all I could think was: These other moms don’t get it. Sure, this advice may work for 80% of families, but for my family? Absolutely NOT!
I realized that we really needed help. I had already talked to our pediatrician who had offered advice which also didn’t work. I went back to talk with her again and explained things weren’t getting better. What we had been doing was not helping him. Our pediatrician referred us to a professional, a specialist who helped children to overcome their eating habits. After our first meeting, we promptly began doing things differently. As parents we learned new techniques. We all followed her advice. Every day we diligently did the homework she prescribed.
What I learned from this experience is that there are times when we need professional help, even with something as simple as eating.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist working with children and adolescents and their parents, I have heard many stories of seeking answers and finding nothing helpful. I understand by the time parents ask for help, they may feel at “the end of their rope.” Parents may feel desperate, having tried every piece of advice with no success, leaving them feeling even more lost, confused and alone. There are times when advice doesn’t work and you need more guidance. It is time for an expert, someone with specialized training, who has seen it before, and understands working with this problem in its most serious form. Don’t be afraid to tell your pediatrician that the advice hasn’t worked and your child needs more help. Ask again: Who is the professional who could best help? Child therapists, psychologists, educational therapists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and medical specialists all have specialized training to help when the everyday advice simply doesn’t work.
Today, if you saw my child, you would never guess that he was an extreme picky eater. He eats everything. But between you and me, it was quite the journey to get here! I remember that with every bite he takes.