You’ve finally made the step to introduce your child to that special someone you’ve been dating. Problem is, most dates involve at least a snack, maybe lunch, and God forbid a fancy dinner. If your child is a picky eater, the dinner options narrow down to anything with a kid’s menu, but if the chicken nugget isn’t cooked just so, or the French fries are crinkle-cut and not skinny, or the macaroni and cheese is beige and not made with the preferred orange powdered cheese… all bets are off. The dating dynamic changes once your child’s idiosyncrasies with food are revealed.
Picky eating is common in the toddler years, but kids don’t always grow out of it and the prevalence may be as high as 1 in 4 children. Not everyone understands the stress of having a child who truly struggles to try new foods. It takes a long time for hesitant eaters to learn to develop a more adventurous palate and that period of food exploration may impinge on the dynamic between you and your new partner. If you’re hoping that your date is someone who will stick around for a while, or a lifetime, your kids’ picky eating habits are going to be an issue.
Here are 3 tips for helping your new partner support your child on the road to healthy eating:
- Don’t discuss your child’s eating habits in front of your kid. Wait for a quiet time to explain your approach to managing picky eating and ask your partner to support you.
- Do ask your date about his/her childhood and family’s food culture, and how that influenced his/her palate into adulthood.
- Ask for patience and flexibility and don’t just assume kids will eat if they are hungry enough. Plenty of kids will go hungry, rather than eat in stressful situations. Building new relationships should be fun, built on trust, and feel easy. Kids cannot change picky eating habits overnight and putting the focus on each bite only adds stress to mealtimes. Keep the focus on being together, not on what’s on your kids' plates.
If your child’s eating habits create stress for you, your child or your new partner, seek support from a specialist in feeding difficulties. It’s a common struggle for many parents. If your new partner knows that you’re seeking help, he or she is more likely to follow professional strategies and support you and your child on the path to healthier, happier eating.