The end of a year is a reflective time for many parents, especially those who have children in any type of therapy. As a pediatric SLP who focuses on feeding, I asked over forty parents for their number one tip that helped their child progress through feeding therapy. I found it interesting that typically what popped into their minds wasn’t an oral motor tool or a specific therapy modality or other tips like “practice, practice, practice!” What struck me was that most parents focused on an emotional component. When we consider the bond between parent and child, that makes perfect sense. I learn so much from the parents of the children I treat and I’m grateful for their wisdom.
Here are the Parents’ Ten Tips for Making Progress in Feeding Therapy:
#10: “Meet my child where she is…show interest in what she’s interested in” and build from there. It builds relationships and that’s the foundation for mealtimes.
#9 “Your child sets the pace.” Expectations and goals are two different things, as described in this article for ASHA.
#8: “Patience.” This was the most popular response. One…step…at…a…time.
#7: Pause and “be compassionate.” It’s not easy for many kids to move through the developmental process of eating. Both physical and emotional pain may come into play.
#6: “Have FUN and PLAY daily in food!” Join in and get the whole family involved, as noted in this ASHA article.
#5: “Expose kids to the Joy of food” – and not just at mealtimes: Farmer’s Markets were a top pick along with the produce isle at the grocery store. Focus on sharing time together and the event, not what might or might not happen when the food makes it to the dinner plate.
#4: “Build Trust.” When a child trusts their mealtime partner, whether it be a therapist, parent or caregiver, that builds confidence in eating skills over time.
#3: Kids get sick and sometimes that stalls progress or causes some regression. One parent stated that: “It’s just part of being a kid, so it’s also part of the process.”
#2: “Rely on Faith,” and not just the religious kind: Faith in family and faith in your child … but also faith in yourself as a parent.
#1: “Park your own stress in the driveway.” That’s a tip that I teach to parents – and I am pleased to see it repeated here. Life is full of stressful moments and it’s easy to bring those into your home. But family mealtimes are a time to focus on family and if there is one thing I am sure of, it’s that kids mimic their parent’s emotions. Be sure to take care of you too – the feeding therapy process isn’t always easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding and exciting when you witness even the smallest changes in your child’s ability to enjoy all kinds of food. Those changes often start with your emotions: Smile when you can, laugh even more and be ready for all the good things to come.
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who have difficulty eating. She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the producer of the award-winning kids’ CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food! Melanie’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is offered for ASHA CEUs and includes both her book and CD for each attendee. She can be reached at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.