Adolescents and parents can come to loggerheads over food. And this is where a paediatric dietician can be helpful. Parents sometimes have the impression that their child is underweight or overweight when they just happen to be growing at the lower or upper end of the healthy range. I recently saw 16 year-old James with his Mum, who thought he was underweight and that he wasn’t eating enough. She was constantly on his back to eat more than he was hungry for. The result – unpleasant mealtimes, battles over food and tension between the boy and his mother.
Once I was able to show them on a growth chart that in fact her boy was growing well along the lower limit of the normal range and that trying to get him to eat more than he needed was in fact going against nature, the mother was happy to take a back seat.
During adolescence, many changes are taking place – physical, emotional, social. Parents are one of the constants in the adolescents life and our role in feeding remains as it has been:
- Follow the Division of Responsibility in feeding your adolescent child.
- Provide regular meals and planned snacks.
- Let your child eat as much or as little as they want at each mealtime
- Limit the amount of ‘extra’ foods you offer. However, in order that your child doesn’t start sneaking or hiding these foods, offer them as part of a meal or planned snack every now and then. For example, ice cream at dinner time, cake or biscuits with a glass of milk or milkshake at afternoon tea.
Here is the feedback from James’s mum :
“James is going really well. Since seeing you I am not worried about him and he has taken your advice very seriously. We were worried that if we let him take charge of his eating, that it would get worse, but much to our surprise it has improved and he really tries to make sure he is having the right number of serves of the right food groups. We are all much happier. As for us, your impartial advice has taken the argument out of food. Thank you for all of your assistance.