Feeding Kids at School with Anxiety: Understanding and Supporting their Needs
Anxiety is a common issue among children, and it can manifest in many different ways, including eating behaviors. For kids with anxiety, the school environment can be especially challenging, as it may trigger their fears and worries. As a result, feeding kids with anxiety at school can be a delicate process that requires patience, understanding, and support.
Here are some tips to help you support children with anxiety around eating at school:
Create a Safe and Supportive Environment: Children with anxiety need to feel safe and secure, and this includes their eating environment. Encourage a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere in the school cafeteria, and make sure that staff and classmates understand that it's important to respect each other's differences.
Offer Choices: Giving kids options when it comes to food can help them feel more in control and less anxious. Provide a variety of healthy and tasty options, and let the child decide what they want to eat. That doesn't mean trying to fit your entire cabinet into a tinylunchbox. Instead, give your child options when packing their lunch and ask them what they'd like to eat at school. If they are unsure, work together with your child to pick a few nutrient dense foods.
Be Patient: Children with anxiety may take longer to eat, and this is okay. While at home, avoid rushing or pressuring them, and instead, provide a supportive and relaxed atmosphere. However, when your child is in the cafeteria, time might be limited. Try packing comforting items in their lunchbox to help them feel more familiar in a different environment. Provide options and ask your child what they would like. This could be a note from you, a favorite fork, or a colorful bowl. If your child's anxiety prevents them from eating very much at lunchtime, try to choose calorie dense options so that they can get their fill more quickly.
Provide Reassurance: Children with anxiety need reassurance and encouragement. Let them know that you care about them, and that you're there to support them. Encourage them to eat what they feel comfortable with, and celebrate their progress, no matter how small.
Work with a Therapist or Dietitian: In some cases, children with anxiety may need more specialized support to overcome their eating challenges. Consider working with a therapist or a registered dietitian who can help your child build healthy eating habits and overcome their anxiety.
Feeding kids with anxiety at school requires a compassionate and understanding approach. By creating a supportive environment, providing choices, being patient, offering reassurance, and seeking support from professionals, you can help your child feel more confident and relaxed around food and in the school environment.