Happy Halloween! It’s time for a celebration!! Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even a birthday party. These are all exciting celebrations in families that are a time to be together as a family and enjoy each other’s company. For tube-fed children, it can be hard to remember that these days are special and are about so much more than just the food. These are days where you can celebrate your child! Even if your child might not be able to enjoy certain foods, or if food is a challenge, it doesn’t mean the fun is gone. Your hosts discuss the importance of celebrating birthdays as so much more than a “cake smash” party. Jennifer and Heidi break down WHY the holidays or birthday parties are so important to celebrate with tube-fed kids and some strategies for how to do this. This can seem like an overwhelming task for many families who feel discouraged in their journey, but we are here to tell you that it’s time to stop comparing yourself to other families, take control of the mindset, and find other ways to enjoy these special days with your child!
So what’s it really all about?
The most special part of a birthday for a child is that it is THEIR day that they can think of as their OWN. This is so exciting for a child, especially when they get to make choices about the day such as where to eat, where to go, or who to invite. Take the focus of the day off of the food or special “treat” and move the focus to picking a favorite activity or having family meet you at the playground!
If your child does have a few preferred or favorite foods, this is a great day to have those foods available so that your child has access to foods that make them feel safe and comfortable. This is important no matter what day it is, but especially on a day where it is all about them! It can be hard for any child to eat in a new environment, especially an environment in a loud room where there are a bunch of new faces. Keep this in mind when choosing foods for the day, since almost ALL children would benefit from some safe or preferred foods.
When you think about the holidays or a birthday party, it is easy to think about the birthday cake or the delicious pumpkin pie. For children, what stands out the most in the long-term is not what flavor cake was there, but WHO was there and the places they went to with their favorite people!
So what can you do?
If it is overwhelming to plan something around a mealtime or a time when there may be food exposed, choose a time where your child is NOT eating or the food will naturally not be the focus. By scheduling something during this time, you are able to take the pressure off of you AND your child.
Some families have recommended introducing pretend play with food so that there is a “mealtime” involved, without the pressure. This may be having a doll tea party, making a craft project of a cardboard cake, or even balloons of cakes and cupcakes!
Keep in mind that birthday parties are a celebration of life and how children have made it through the past year together with their family. This is SO much more than the cake, and although in today’s society there is always the new birthday trend, it is important to remember what is important in your family. If it helps, avoid situations or environments where people may pressure your child to eat or make you feel uncomfortable about your decisions.
We know that one of the major reasons for eating is attachment and togetherness. Whether a child is tube-fed or not, having the idea that the family is all together doing something fun, is SO much more important than the cake smash or a fun display of cupcakes!
Halloween can be a tough holiday because it is based around “trick or treating”, which can be hard for children who have food sensitivities, allergies, or who do not eat by mouth. The Teal Pumpkin Project was organized by the Food Allergy Research & Education organization to bring awareness for those children who cannot receive the food items. Having a teal pumpkin outside your house is a signal that you have non-food treats for children so this is inclusive to everyone. This can be something that you share with your neighbors to help them get involved for other children in the neighborhood. It’s also important to focus on the other exciting parts of Halloween like dressing up or even handing out candy! Having a “hand-out party” can be a fun way to get children involved in a different way. It is important that all children can participate in a way that feels safe and manageable for you.
Our friend, Virginia Sole-Smith, wrote an article for the New York Times about how parents should not stress out about children eating Halloween candy. If your child, tube-fed or not, is interested in candy, this is an opportunity and a fun time to celebrate. Focusing so much on the nutritional content or the “sugar” can have the opposite effect on children. We know that when we restrict certain foods, children tend to eat more of that food or show less ability to listen to their own bodies.
Have a great Halloween! See you next week!