Just when you thought I was done with monsters, eh? Here’s the last one in our series. A wily little fucker that can come in a few forms for little ones. We normally associate eating monsters with teenage girls, but you know the eating monster can hit even our younger cherubs.
In what ways can the eating monster screw with our kids? Well we have the more well-known eating issue of refusing to eat, in its extreme version we know it as anorexia. With the eating monster, refusal to eat can lie on a spectrum, from your garden variety pain-in-the-ass “No! I’m not eating that!” to a full control over what they put in their mouth. Anorexia can actually happen in children as young as 7 or 8. At that age it seems to have a bit to do with the sad monster or the worry monster (with obsessive compulsive features), and is hard to diagnose. The refusal eating monster also needs to be distinguished from the sensory eating monster. Some kids just will.not.eat certain things because of the way it feels to them, or the sensation of eating it. And some kids will not eat due to the worry monster leaving them with a fear of choking, or possible trauma around food.
The eating monster can go the other way too, and result in binge eating or compulsive eating. There are sometimes some genetic reasons why kids won’t stop eating, and that’s important to see a doctor about. In that case, the eating monster needs a bit of outside medical help to quieten down. Other kids might experience a form of the eating monster that sees them eat all kinds of objects, particularly things we don’t usually eat- like paper, grass, chalk etc.
A big thing about the eating monster is that often we parents tend to blame ourselves, or feel that we’re largely responsible in some way. That’s a sneaky trick of the eating monster. Parents aren’t to blame, and we need to reassure our kids that they aren’t to blame either. Unless they’re my kids and just don’t eat because ‘look Mama! A birdy out the window!’ and other awesomely cunning diversionary tactics. Seriously kids. Eat your fucking dinner. Please.
Something else we need to remember about eating monsters is that they don’t discriminate. They can pay a visit to boys just as much as girls, and for a variety of reasons.
What can we do if we suspect our cherub is having issues with the eating monster? We can have a chat to them to help them understand what’s going on firstly:
Things have been a bit crummy lately in the eating department, haven’t they? I can understand that eating gets a bit much sometimes. It looks to me like we’ve had a visit from the eating monster. That eating monster can be pretty annoying, huh? You know, eating monsters can come and visit quite a few kids, and grown ups from time to time. They have us looking at food differently, and can have us feeling all sorts of things. The eating monster is good friends with the worry monster, the sad monster and sometimes even the angry monster! So it’s like we’ve got a party of monsters cracking inside and our poor minds and bodies can get pretty crowded! How do you think that leaves us feeling? Gosh, we can get pretty tired from all these monsters playing together, telling our minds all these big thoughts about food and what to eat or what not to eat. And of course the less we eat properly, the worse we’re going to feel. It becomes a bad cycle. But, you know that we can work on this together. And we might need to get some advice from other people, but we’re in it together, and we can sort out this eating monster so that things get a bit easier for you.
Eating monsters can be so, so tough to pick up, and to then tease out from the other monsters, and then to get help for. But they aren’t invincible. They can be sorted out. And by helping our little ones understand the why’s behind the eating monster (be that anxiety, behaviour, neurological factors, genetic issues etc), it can reassure them that there is a reason, and that they have support to overcome it all.
If you’d like to do a little more reading around the specifics of the eating monster, check out these site here on eating disorders in young children, some further information explaining eating issues in children and here also. Two great sites are the Butterfly Foundation, and Maudsley Parents. Amazing resources and support for families.
Have you ever seen the eating monster in a child before? How would you cope?