Co-parenting in separate homes raises many concerns around child & teen nutrition. In Part 1 we learned how dieting messages may show up and how they can negatively affect your adolescent.
In this post we’ll discuss how you can address these concerns and what you can do to protect your adolescent from these messages.
#1 Talk with your co-parent
Discussing your values, goals of child raising, and current concerns with your co-parent is the ideal first step.
Have a neutral conversation discussing your goals of raising a healthy child, free of concerns about their body and food intake.
Avoid judgment, and try to keep the conversation goal focused, rather than blaming. Bring up your concerns about what your child has experienced, but with the purpose of changing the experience versus changing your ex.
Depending on your relationship, this may not be feasible. Or, you may have had this discussion and seen no change. In that case, keep reading.
#2 Talk with your adolescent
Discussing this with your child or teen will sound different depending on your child’s age and stage of development, as age impacts what nutrition messages they can understand.
Explain to your child your values and goals of raising him free of diet culture and being able to eat and enjoy all foods without feeling guilt and shame. You can educate her about diet culture and why people often misunderstand the role of food in health.
Keep this conversation neutral towards their parent and allow your child to share their experiences with diet culture in general (not just at their parent’s home).
#3 Support your adolescent’s eating while away from home
Brainstorm with your adolescent how you can support their eating while they’re not at home.
Meal plan together
Figure out what food or food group is missing when at your co-parent and create a plan for how they can include more variety.
Grocery shop in preparation
If your co-parent won’t buy certain foods, stock up your adolescent with them. Help your adolescent have the necessary foods to feel satisfied, energized, and growing comfortable around all foods.
Send over leftovers with your child
You can send your child with leftovers of successful meals with the message that your kids really enjoyed it and the leftovers will go to waste. This can be a more subtle way of providing food when your child is away.
#4 Make your home a safe space
Despite your best intentions there truly is only so much you can do when your children are away from home. Your greatest responsibility is to make your home a safe space for your kids.
- Have a variety of all the foods available, in a quantity that creates availability
- Talk back to negative or judgmental food talk
- Support body neutrality by creating an environment that encourages and celebrates body diversity
When co-parenting with someone who is dieting or restricting specific food, it’s super important to protect your child or teen from these practices.
Discussing this neutrally with your co-parent, having an open (and judgement-free!) conversation with your child, and setting up your child for success when away are key steps in this situation.
And whether or not these are successful, ensuring your home is diet free and supports developing and maintaining a good relationship with food and body is the most important step. Having a safe space with a supportive parent is crucial for teens and tweens to feel secure in their changing and developing selves.