Raising Picky Eaters

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

dinner timeFor years Kira would eat nothing for lunch but PB&J sandwiches. Even into her teens, she still hesitated to eat anything that “looked weird.” Kyle and Derek, on the other hand, are our garbage disposals that all leftovers disappear into aside from the odd dislike here and there. Parker is like me, in that he is finicky in regard to texture, and Anika will try pretty much anything.

We have never fought to have all of our children clean their plates or eat the same food. With different schedules and varying tastes, it just was never feasible. More recently, Parker’s braces have been a literal barrier against some of our dinner staples, and his Aspergers has made us even more sensitive to taste sensitivites and eating choices. Since Dave and I want to eat more than chicken patties every night, something had to be done.

The solution was to stock food that was nutritious, quick to prepare, and guaranteed to satisfy the children while Dave could prepare amazing meals ranging from baked tilapia to Chinese cuisine for ourselves and those kids willing to try it. Since we don’t use a microwave, a toaster oven is a handy gadget to have to accomodate all of our varied tastes and dietary needs.

Kira grew out of her pickiness eventually, and Parker may too. Even if he doesn’t, the important thing is never what everyone is eating; it’s that we are enjoying our time together as a family. We’ll never be that family who tells a child to go hungry rather than eat what we’re serving; we’ll never be that family who shames a child for having more sensitive taste than another. All we really want out of the meal is time together.

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Disconnecting – It’s Good for the Whole Family

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

guitarThere seems to be a misconception that children need the latest and greatest to be entertained. With phones, tablets, videogames, and other electronics to distract the newer generations. we might be surprised at how enjoyable the simple things can be.

It’s important to teach your kids that they do not need to be entertained by electronics at all times. Limit TV time, videogames, and phone time (texting, talking, skyping, etc). It may be frustrating to your kids, but disconnecting is important for everyone. Unfortunately, your kids won’t learn anything if you set limits for them but not for yourself. You need to set the right example. Dave and I disconnect – we turn off our laptops at the end of the work day; we take time away from our phones, and while we love to play Mario Kart (we have a real rivalry going) we limit our play to holidays and weekends as an example to our kids.

In fact, we only allow video game time on the weekends for the kids, and electronics have to be turned off an hour before bed. My sister actually collects her kids electronics at night.Every household is going to have different rules. However, limiting electronics gives children a chance to explore the world and perhaps even a different side of themselves. This also opens up space for family time, which older children may grumble at now but will appreciate later.

You won’t believe how quickly kids learn to entertain themselves doing other things when they aren’t connected all the time.  Your kids might actually go outside and play. (Yes, it’s something people still do). Kids can read, draw, sing, dance, whatever it is they enjoy that does not involve electronics or media. As I write this, Anika is reading a book and Parker is playing his guitar. It’s lovely.

TV and Your Infant or Toddler

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes as a parent you just can’t handle another episode on the Baby TV channel or Nick Jr. We’ve all been there, switching over to something else — anything else — even for just a half hour or so. You may think that your little one is not affected by dramatic episodes of CSI or Law & Order, but they are catching more than you think.

It is true that infants and toddlers do not understand a lot of the adult television that they may be exposed to. However, infants and toddlers are wired to take in amazing amounts of information, including your favorite TV show that may not be developmentally appropriate. Even as early as toddlerhood, children begin to form ideas about the world and what is in it. Knowing that, a dinosaur singing the alphabet is likely more preferable than a violent crime scene.

Something I didn’t know about children’s television programming is that they are mandated by federal law to be educational (if only the same was true for shows targeted at adults!!) Since your child is attending to everything around them all the time, offering the most educational environment possible can only help. It is a crucial time for learning and development, and when you combine educational television with parental support you’ve got a recipe for future success.

Of course, we all have days where we’re grateful to Dora and Boots (or whatever show is popular these days) for giving us a break, but play time and physical activity are more beneficial to infant and toddler development.

If you’ve got a show you’re dying to watch, it is probably best to wait until nap time.

A Little Respect Goes a Long Way

heart pancakeGetting Real with Shadra Bruce

As a parent, you want your child to have a well-balanced lifestyle, getting regular exercise, having a good sleeping schedule, and eating healthy. But what do you do when your child pushes back on the habits you want them to form?

Whether you’re dealing with a child refusing to clean their plate ( don’t get me started on the dangers of forcing kids to eat past the point of full!) or a teen pushing the boundaries. You could try pat answers like, “because I said so,” but it won’t get you very far.

You might be surprised at how well your children will respond to just a little bit of respect.

Children go through all sorts of stages, but a dominant part of growing up is figuring out who you want to be. It is a parent’s job to guide and educate, but as much as we would like to, we can’t make all of their decisions. Even if we could, most people don’t like being told what to do — even as adults (there’s a reason I work for myself).

Rather than fight your children, offer boundaries and choices while allowing them to express opinions, desires, wants, and needs of their own — even if they are different than yours. It is a sign that you respect their individuality, while still providing a safe haven to explore.

Allow your kids to have independence. If dinner is a point of contention, involve your child in planning meals. Discuss choices with your teen and help them understand that they are in control, but that their choices result in consequences (good choices lead to more privileges; bad choices result in erosion of trust and restriction).

By simply acknowledging your child’s choices and feelings, you’ll have taught an important lesson in respect.


Image source: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/191418

Teen Obesity: Helping Your Teen

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Teen obesity and weight issues are not an easy challenge to deal with. Teenagers in general struggle with emotional turmoil, self image, and finding their independence, but when you add the pressure of an added health risk that also affects your teen’s image, it can become a serious problem, both physically and emotionally. You can help your teen address weight issues so that is not a lifelong problem.

joggingIt is ridiculous to expect your teens to change their habits or appearance over night. Keep in mind that you can and must be a part of the change, not by nagging or criticizing but by supporting and understanding. Join your teen on the journey to better health. While it may be convenient to swing through the drive thru rather than step foot into your kitchen, it is not the example you want to set. A healthy home cooked meal will not only cut down on the calories but it will provide you with the chance to show your teen that you are in this together.

It is important to reassure your teen that the changes you both are making to your lives do not concern appearance or image. The focus is on health, not losing weight. This is not boot camp either; you are not running a home version of The Biggest Loser. Teach the message of everything in moderation. Starving your teen is not a healthy alternative in any way, and neither is deprivation of favorite foods. It’s ok to go out for a piece of cheesecake or grab a milkshake together once in a while. Just don’t sit down together every night in front of the TV with a bag of chips.

There are many small changes that you can make that will have a big impact. Simply beginning the day with a healthy meal can pave the way for healthy decisions for the rest of the day. Starting the day with a balanced breakfast can keep your teen from craving junk throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks in the house at all times and limit the amount of junk food that you keep around. Fruits and vegetables are a perfect substitution for chips and cookies. Ask your teen what healthy foods they enjoy to make changing their diet less of a chore. Take your teen to the grocery store and let him or her pick a few favorite healthy snacks.

Being active is another important part of being healthy, but handing your teen a gym membership card is not going to get you very far. Start small and suggest taking walks as a family or join the gym together. Even small changes can have a big impact on the obese teen’s health, but it takes you to help make it happen.

It is important to talk to your family physician when starting a workout program as well. A doctor can give you and your teen helpful tips on what is a good plan of action to help fight obesity.

You Can’t Steal My Daughters Body Image

Getting Real With Jana Jeffery

emmaWhen my oldest daughter was 10 years old, she turned to me one day and while pinching her little tummy she says, “Mom, I need to lose weight. I’m getting fat.” I stopped mid-stride and said to her, “You are not fat. Not at all. Why do you think that?” Her reasons were shocking and simple: most everyone she sees in ads and on TV, her idols, they don’t look like her. At least she doesn’t think so.

When I took her in to get her fitted for a bra, she stared at the lingerie models at the entrance of the store and actually said, “I’ll never look like that.” It’s such a devastation to see your daughter critique and doubt herself. It’s as if all the years spent building up her self-confidence and making sure she knew she was beautiful from the inside out went up in smoke, in less than 30 seconds.

A few years after Dove launched their Real Beauty campaign, we watched the videos and talked about how the women she aspired to be like weren’t what she thought they were; that they were marvels of modern technology via the steady hand and crafty photoshopping skills of another human being. She was intrigued by the process and began looking at the ads in magazines, on billboards, and websites a little differently. Dove started the conversation for millions of women, and my baby girl was listening.

So, when Aerie, American Eagle Outfitters lingerie and underwear brand, took to the airwaves, TV, broadcast and social with their #AerieReal campaign, we dived back into the conversation. She loves how she can see moles, blemishes, acne, and not-so-perfect tummies. And I do too, because “the real you is sexy.” Not that she needs to be thinking about sexy at age 12, but you know what I mean.

–> Watch now: #AerieREAL – Real Talk with Amber and Hana

It’s time, as moms, as women, as human beings that we get real and show our preference for reality over Photoshop with our buying power. As E! News Anchor, Giuliana Rancic says, “We have to see more of that!”

Image source: http://www.ae.com/aerie/browse/stylegallery.jsp?navdetail=footer:c3:p15#opi2175208612

Is Santa Claus Real? How to Handle the Inevitable Question

MomsGetReal Contributor Katie Bugbee

Legend has it that when I was five, I turned to my mom and said, “I get the whole Santa thing. He really lives in your heart.”

My mom was speechless, just nodded and said, “You’re exactly right.”

shutterstock_160197791The way I remember it was stopping at the Hess station with my dad, watching him go in and buying a Hess truck and then finding my annual gift from “Santa” under the tree the next week. Yes, he bought me a Hess truck every year. And yes, he threw it in the trunk thinking I wouldn’t catch on. So then I turned to my mom to let her know I was on to them.

Now that I’m a parent, I struggled with introducing the jolly ol’ man to my kids. I hate the idea of lying and building up this huge fantasy of flying reindeer, tiny elves and a giant toy factory in the great north. But when I talked to a friend about it, she told me that her parents were always honest about Santa – and for years she tried to convince herself they were lying – and that he did exist. So that’s when I decided to keep the fantasy alive.

Needless to say, you’ll be asked at some point if Santa is real. So here are some tips to handle the conversation:

1. Be Ready to Tell the Truth
Depending on your child’s age and if you think he or she is ready to handle it, be prepared to say something like, “He lives in your heart” or “It’s part of the giving spirit and magic of the holiday.” Be sure your child understands that this was not malicious and that Santa lives inside everyone – and he can even become Santa now for others.

2. Follow Her Lead
It’s possible that your child is asking you because friends at school said Santa wasn’t real. But the look on her face tells you she can’t handle the truth at this young phase of her life. If that’s the case, ask a question like “Why are you asking?” to get more info from her. Then ask her to tell you what she thinks about Santa.

3. Create Room for Questions
Kids are bound to have a lot of “why” questions. Why do people believe? Why isn’t he real? Who put the elf on the shelf all those mornings? Answer these calmly and respectfully.

4. Talk About the Meaning
Why do you think people create the idea of Santa? It makes Christmas even more fun – especially for the people who know he’s not real. My parents still give me presents from Santa. It’s fun for them and breaks up the monotony of gifts from Mom and Dad. Talk about the magic of the holidays and how special it is to give gifts to other people.

5. Don’t Ruin It for Believers

You want to make sure that no matter how you leave things with your children, they understand that there are true Santa die-hards in their neighborhood, classroom – and possibly their family. The idea now is to preserve the magic for others.

Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.

My Child’s Not Fat!

How Denial Can Store Up Future Health Problems For Your Kids

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Diane Rennison

It seems we’re facing a global crisis amongst our children. In the last thirty years statistics show that obesity rates amongst those aged 2-18 has increased by a colossal three fold. What is even more worrying is that over seventy percent of these overweight children will go on to become overweight adults. It seems that the global obesity epidemic is showing very few signs of slowing down, and as parents, if we’re not careful we may just be fuelling the fire.

800px-thumbnailThere is no doubt that being overweight, can be tough even for an adult. Of course it can be many times harder for a child. But according to a recent health study, it seems that not enough parents are actually recognising the signs of obesity in their own children – and a third of moms actually considered their child’s weight to be normal when their child was actually dangerously overweight. Too often parents are dismissive of their child’s weight and put it down to puppy fat, being big boned, growth spurts or simply that their child is “just big for their age.”

It’s essential as a responsible parent to not only recognise when our child is actually becoming overweight but also to act accordingly. Timely intervention is essential as left untreated, it’s a condition that can lead to life-shortening illnesses including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and also diabetes (an illness which has worryingly increased dramatically in children over the last two decades).

How Do I Tell If My Child is Overweight?

One of the main ways to tell if your child is overweight is looking at their weight on a BMI chart for children. This chart actually includes age ranges and gender (whereas the adult BMI chart doesn’t). This gives you a good starting point as to whether they are at a healthy weight for their height and their age. It’s the exact same measure that a doctor will use initially in determining a child’s ‘healthy’ weight.

Many parents mistakenly believe their children cannot possibly be overweight if they’re fitting into clothes designed for their age group. However, health experts tell us not to look at clothes sizes as a reliable indicator as to whether a child is overweight. It seems many clothes manufacturers are now making children’s clothes a size or two bigger than they were 50 years ago. So a child’s age 6-7 trousers may be more like a child’s age 8-9 trousers of our parents’ or grandparents’ generation.

What Should I Do To Help My Child?

If you feel your child is overweight try to measure their weight over a period of 4-6 months. Medical experts say there is a difference in being a little overweight than to having rolls of fat on the body. Fluctuations in weight followed by plateaus are normal but fast and consistent weight gain is not. These are signs to look out for. It can sometimes be a good idea to ask your child’s school to weigh children as part of a general and inclusive check-up of the whole class, as this can help children feel less that they’re being singled out by their parents.

Open Communication With Your Child Is Key

If your child is overweight it’s essential that you talk to them about it. It’s a popular misconception that talking to your children about weight issues will lead to some sort of long-term distress, depression, bulimia or self-harming. Evidence actually shows that if handled correctly children respond well to proper discussion and don’t develop any negative emotional problems or eating disorders. Whilst pushing it under the carpet and telling children not to worry about their weight may seem like the nice (or indeed easy) thing to say, it can actually become confusing for them and lead to more problems in the long-run, especially when the problem doesn’t go away.

Knowing that they have support at home is essential to your child’s success. Many children who don’t have this support network in their parents or indeed feel that they cannot turn to their parents to talk about such issues, often try to lose weight on their own by skipping meals altogether and making unhealthy decisions that can make the problem a lot worse.

Clearly the level of detail and discussion and how you approach the subject will vary according to your child’s age. If the child is still under the age of 8 then it’s the parent who will no doubt still choose what the child eats and to a large extent what exercise and activities the child does, so changes can be implemented more easily. In such circumstances there may be less need for much discussion. But from ages 9-12, children become naturally more aware of their bodies and parents can discuss these issues with them in a little more detail. For teenagers parents can be more open in discussing such issues.

When you choose to talk to your child about weight, make sure you pick the right time and emphasise that is not their fault. Explain that weight gain is due to many factors and is very common. Ensuring that your child knows they have your support and that you love them, is absolutely critical, as too is the belief that they can really achieve it. Above all else avoid talking about ‘dieting’ as this word has many negative connotations which can last a lifetime. Instead discuss lifestyle changes as a family. Get your children involved in food shopping, grocery lists, meal choices and even cooking. This can be a very beneficial way to help your child to make healthful food choices and to take more ownership themselves, helping them to fell empowered. Plan activities as a family, such as weekend bike rides, hiking, swimming or just a country walk. By embracing positive lifestyle changes you can help your child to take control of their health without making weight a ‘heavy’ issue.

Diane Rennison is a mum of two, a health writer and head personal trainer at MotivatePT where she specializes in developing fitness and nutrition programs for improving the health and well being of her clients. 


Boosting a Child’s Self-Esteem

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Though many of us look back on our childhood and long for a simpler time, we all too easily forget that being a kid can be tough. Not only are kids confronted daily with new experiences, but they are also struggling to identify who they are as individuals and what their place in this world is. During this phase of their lives more than any others, the opinions of their peers can strongly impact their sense of self. Therefore, as a parent, it’s important to encourage your children to establish a healthy perspective and self-image.

AnikaBoosting your child’s confidence may seem like quite a challenge, especially considering that low self-worth is actually quite common. Don’t ignore the signs; watch for your child having trouble navigating social landscapes and connecting with other people, or preferring to spend too much time alone.

What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is how a person values themselves, and there are many outside influences on it. As a parent, you can do two things to help boost your child’s self-image: let your child know how much you value him or her, and give your child opportunities to accomplish challenges. Below are some suggestions to keep in mind when interacting with your child.

1)      Show unconditional love. We truly want the best for our children and, when they do something impressive, it’s natural that we would want to reward them with praise. However, it is important to give affection and love, to show pride and be happy with your child even when they’re not giving you bragging rights. Reward effort, not success. Make sure that you recognize effort regardless of the outcome. Saying things like, “you showed a lot of determination when you studied for that test,” or, “I’m proud of the way you didn’t give up during the race” will demonstrate how life is about more than simply winning/losing.

2)      Empower your child through hobbies. School is extremely important, but so is having a well-rounded set of interests outside the classroom. By allowing your child to explore activities like music, art, sports and more, you’re allowing youngster to cast a wider social net to accumulate friends as well as develop skills that make them feel good about themselves. So what if he gets picked last for kickball at recess; he’ll feel right at home amongst his friends at karate practice! Additionally, hobbies allow your children to explore interests that excite them, further defining passions outside of the school’s cookie-cutter curriculum. The sense of accomplishing a goal for your own satisfaction is much different than completing it for a letter grade; the sense of pride that comes from creating a beautiful painting or scoring a goal in soccer can be priceless. Whether you enlist your kids in martial arts so they can learn discipline or feed their passion for dance or even buy your children a musical instrument like these to provide them with a creative outlet for their emotions, fuel their passions – even when those passions are different than your own.

3)      Don’t coddle. We all want to protect our kids and make their lives as easy as possible, but sometimes you’ll need to take a step back and let them figure things out on their own. Your child will feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when (s)he overcome a difficult task like tying a shoe or doing a craft project from start-to-finish; by diving in to rescue the day, you’re depriving your child of the positive sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Even with only the best intentions in your heart, you’re subtly sending the message that your little person is somewhat incapable.

4)      Avoid minimizing your child’s feelings. What may seem like a big deal to your children will, at times, literally seem like child’s play to you. Is the younger sister upset because the older sister gets to stay up later? While you certainly don’t have to succumb to your younger one’s demands, don’t devalue their honest emotions. Listen and verbally empathize to demonstrate that your child’s thoughts are valued; if the expressed sentiments or the negative emotions behind them seem abnormal, don’t dismiss them as being “silly.” There could be some underlying issues like fear of abandonment, anxiety or feelings of worthlessness that are at play.

Above all else, make sure that your children are encouraged to be their wonderful selves! Laugh at their goofiness, foster their individuality and certainly don’t compare them to others.

Do you have your own tips on how to help your kids build their confidence? Share with us below!


Tricks for Dealing with Picky Eaters

MomsGetReal Contributor Katie Bugbee

If I wasn’t counting calories, I’d probably eat chicken nuggets and pasta every day, too. Ketchup might be an adequate “side dish.” And snacks would be meals.

But I’m actually an adult. With healthier habits and better manners (sometimes).

shutterstock_118908841Creating healthy habits in kids is hard. The first taste of French fries and nuggets, and they’re hooked. They don’t want anything else. But here are some tips to work through it. After all, there aren’t too many adults out there who consider ketchup a vegetable (although I do know one).

1. Have meals together. My husband and I both work. By the time we get home, our kids are fed. But on Sundays (and sometimes Saturdays) we have “Family Dinner” at home. We all eat the same thing at the same time. Usually, they’re so excited to have us all at the big table, they eat more and try more. It’s also a great way for us to model good eating habits. This is how my kids started to love salad.

2. Use sprinkles. Broccoli tastes better with Parmesan cheese on top. But Mom can’t add this secret ingredient. The kids have to. That’s the only way this essential veggie seems palatable. It seems a dose of empowerment can boost appetite. Sesame seeds and salad dressings work too.

3. Allow no other options. My friend sent her picky eater 4-year old to private school where they have a standard fancy lunch for all kids. Cobb Salad, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken drumsticks. For the first two weeks, he didn’t eat more than three (mandatory) bites. But now he eats everything. He might not ask for it on the weekends, but while at school, he eats what is offered.

4. Skip the kiddie menu. When out for dinner, get out of the habit of choosing from the kids’ meals. They’re full of fried junk. Instead, order them a milk or water and have them share a meal with you. Don’t want to share? Ask the waiter if they can bring a half portion of a regular item. If they can’t, take the rest home.

5. GYOG. Grow your own garden – and include the kids. They will get so excited for the peppers, lettuce and cucumbers they “grew,” that they’ll enjoy each bite even more.

6. Don’t call them “picky.” If you label your child as a picky eater, they might just really become one. When you’re offered something unique to give your child, just say “I’m sure she’ll try it.” If she eats 3 bites, it’s a success.

What are your tricks to get your kids to eat like grownups?

Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.