Every single year, I hear the same story around the holidays. Otherwise peaceful and happy relationships are under attack from a very unlikely source: children’s diets. Friends, family and even strangers try to generously share foods with other people’s children. Tempers flare and the kiddos are caught in the middle.
There are a few things that I’d like for all of us to remember, myself included. 😉
Sharers (Usually) Mean Well
If you’re a parent who is at the end of your rope because of all the things that people are trying to feed your kids, remember that they usually mean well. They aren’t trying to ruin the child’s health. They want to make the child happy and they really believe that this particular food is necessary in order to do that.
Maybe your child needs to be gluten-free and your neighbor keeps trying to sneak cookies to him. Maybe the lady at the post office gives your kiddos lollypops without asking you, first (like at our post office) and your kids don’t handle food coloring well. Maybe a relative offers “junk food” to your kids when you’ve already said, “no.” Although it may feel like you’re being attacked from all sides, they are most likely just trying to please the kiddos, not upset us. 😉
When They Don’t Mean Well
Occasionally, the situation isn’t about making the kids happy, it’s about control. This is usually in families, not with strangers. Somehow, a power struggle gets centered on what the children are “allowed” to eat. Relatives use the holidays as an excuse to undermine the parent’s authority. They probably don’t even realize they are doing it, but for some reason they think that they are right to sneak forbidden foods to the kids or manipulate the parents into allowing something they have already said no to.
It’s not really about the food, it’s about who “wins.” I can guarantee that the children are the ones who end up losing. They see the tension and feel the stress. They see mama and daddy “fighting” with a loved family member. They see their parents’ authority undermined and they see the resentment. Is getting the kids an extra slice of pie really worth all that?? Of course not!
To The Parents:
If you are the parent, here’s what I suggest:
- First, remember that most people really do mean well and are trying to be generous.
- Keep a united front with your spouse and make solid plans on what “treats” the kids will be getting. That makes it easy to know when to say, “no.”
- Be ready with a polite and gracious response for those unexpected offers (“Thank you so much, but we have some other treats that we’ll be having. I do appreciate the offer, though.”).
- Have a plan for dealing with those rare occasions when it’s not about food, but about control. (Something like, “We understand that you are trying to do what you think is best for our children, but since they are our children, we will be deciding what is best and what isn’t. We ask that you please respect our decisions and not put our children through the stress of seeing us disagree.”)
To The Sharers:
- Most of you simply want to make the children happy, right? What will make them most happy is to see all the people they love getting along. They won’t remember that one cookie you pressured their parents into allowing. They will remember the strained relationships and tension.
- If you are wanting to create special memories, privately talk to the kiddos’ parents. Explain that you want to have a special time of making cookies with the kids, but you don’t want to undermine their authority. Ask if there is a recipe you can use (gluten-free, or whatever is appropriate). Most parents will love that offer! 🙂
- When you have something you really want to share, offer it to the parents privately and be ready to graciously accept a, “no, but thanks.” They are the parents and it’s their job to do what they believe to be best.
- No matter what, never, ever lead the children to believe that their parents want anything but the very best for them. Implying that their parents are holding out on them or even punishing them is never appropriate.
- Celebrate the holidays with the kids by sincerely enjoying what they are allowed to have, even if it’s not a “treat” to you. If you and their parents are happy, they will be happy, too. That’s what really matters to you, right?
A Few Last Thoughts
I tried to speak very plainly, in order to get through to everybody. This can be such a difficult subject to address, so I wanted to address both sides. I hope that this helps some strained relationships and makes this holiday season one of the happiest for all the children you love, be they your own or not. 😉