Although there is much you can learn about a child from the fostering agency that will soon be placing that child with you, there are some things we just cannot know until we’ve had the chance to observe them closely in our homes. Eating habits can tell us a lot about the child’s life up until that point and this is one of the reasons why foster parents can be extremely concerned with getting them to eat a healthy diet.
However, it pays to understand that we say “eating habits” for a very good reason. We develop habits in how we eat, what we eat and even how much we eat from a very young age and that is something that needs to be better understood before we can begin working on that “healthy diet.” So then, if you notice that your foster kids aren’t eating nutritious foods or perhaps eating like there is no tomorrow, that will give you a starting place to begin encouraging them in healthy eating habits.
What Their Eating Habits Can Tell You
Much has been written on the dangers of literally force feeding a child, but for foster children, it can have even graver consequences. When becoming foster parents, many of them will have come from backgrounds of neglect. Some will have had little to eat, and meals were sporadic at best. Others were allowed to eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and so getting them to eat vegetables can be a major challenge.
Instead of forcing them to eat “everything on their plate” at the very beginning, it pays to observe how and what they eat. That’s a good starting point to begin working on those healthy diets. If you know why they eat the way that they do, it becomes easier to help them change those unhealthy habits.
Make Eating a Healthy Diet Rewarding
From the earliest moments when a child enters the world, bonding begins when they are fed and cuddled. That’s a known fact and not something anyone would want to challenge. However, if a child isn’t fed when hungry or has a bottle stuffed in their mouth to keep them quiet, there is no bonding going on there. And so it is throughout their childhood. With this in mind, try finding ways to make it a rewarding experience to sit at table with the family, eating those healthy meals you cook daily. Make it a bonding experience for them.
Sometimes, just having the ability to sit as a part of a family is rewarding in, and of, itself. Perhaps you can find ways to reward them for eating more veggies and less starches, and so forth. Maybe allowing a second portion of chips would be the encouragement to eat that salad or those green beans. It will take some patience, but what a rewarding experience for you when you see them asking for more vegetables from time to time.
Be Mindful of How You Approach It
The whole point in all this is to be careful how you approach trying to get them to eat healthier foods. Most kids will rebel at being “forced” to do anything, so if you make it a rewarding experience to eat the right foods in the right quantities, you will have much more success. Remember, what and how they eat will tell you a lot, so be observant from day one and you will better understand that child you’ve come to love.