Food: Ability to self regulate. Have happy family memories of us around food.
I’m more concerned with developing emotional regulation skills in my kids than I am in what I put on their plate or what they choose to eat off of their plate. I want to mess with their food as little as possible, but since I’m their external frontal lobe at the moment, there is guidance I offer as I see fit (“we’re not having back to back to back fruit snacks”). I want them to have family memories that involve food being enjoyable and fun – Slider Mondays, swimming + homemade pizza + ice cream night, hot chocolate in the bath tub because why not, and really good Tex-Mex. However, eating disorder prevention for them is on my mind and since the function of an eating disorder is emotional regulation…that is going to be my focus since I already know they will grow up in a home without any dieting or self-harm in the form of misuse of food or exercise. If adults have permission to eat all foods, they are less likely to use food as a coping mechanism. I’ve found it mostly helpful to listen to Dr. Becky’s podcast (even though sometimes I have this reaction of “don’t tell me how to parent!”), Good Inside, for emotional regulation ideas. In a recent episode she talked about modeling realistic regulation to our kids. For instance, not “…and then I take a deep breath and I try again and everything is great!”, but instead talking them through the mess and difficulty when you are trying to cope with something. She said, “When we are dealing with something less than ideal the best that you get is coping with it and accepting it. Tolerating it enough to stay engaged, creative and involved.” Also, “The most powerful moments with kids are when our kids just happen to notice us doing something, whether it was planned prior or not. For instance, realistic regulation may look like saying, This didn’t go the way I wanted, I can get through this and still make it great.”