For years my in-laws kept a cupboard packed with lollies for the children of the family. I never took issue with grandparents showing a bit of indulgence with my kids. Well, that is easy for me to say, my in-laws were not involved in providing the children’s meals every day.
Jane, a client, tells me she is stuck. She hates the way her in-laws feed fussy eater Sam: “they feed him junk all day long”. Yet Jane and her husband cannot afford childcare. Their child joins 25.8% of Aussie children whom grandparents look after, according to a 2017 report by the Australian Bureau Of Statistics.
It may reassure Jane to know that most of the grandparents surveyed here took great care in providing good basic foods to children. They were also less likely to “offer savoury snacks and sugary drinks“. It is worth knowing that grandmas did better than grandpas.
It may also surprise Jane to find out that some grandparents feel like they know better: “our grandchild loves the food I prepare, he eats beans and legume casseroles, but at his home that would never happen”, Suzie, the grandmother of 3 year old Alex, complains. “My grandchild is not fussy, his dad thinks he is”, she added.
So in this post I wonder, can you impose your views on food and feeding your children when you delegate feeding to your parents or in-laws?
I find this is a very tricky subject. See the thing is we hold strong beliefs about the foods we eat. You may be anti-sugar, anti-carbs, you may be vegan, your religion may forbid specific foods. Whatever food choices you align your family with, may appear ‘out there’ or unjustified to your in-laws or your parents. It may be more than a generational gap as grandparents will hold strong beliefs about foods too!
Look some flexible grandparents may be ready to accommodate your choices and that is fabulous. Others are not so inclined at all. My friends Graham and Diana always feed their little grandson ham, despite their daughter-in-law cultural and religious differences. Do you think this is inappropriate? Does that make you uneasy? Are you in a position to talk about your beliefs and needs in a constructive way with Grandpa and Grandma?
If it is not the case can you compromise?
Here are some areas where grandparents can do wonders for your children to benefit:
- Showing where foods come from. Some families I work with have told me grandparents take their children to the garden, the market or the supermarket and educate them about foods.
- Cooking meals and preparing food from scratch. Many grandparents have the time and the inclination to put together hearty, traditional recipes that provide a comforting experience to children. There may be nothing like Grandpa’a special pasta dish.
- Grandparents have time to share meals with grandchildren. They are likely to enjoy that time engaging with little ones, whilst leaving screens away from the dinner table.
This type of exposure to grandparents mealtime will help to develop your child’s ability to:
- accept new foods
- eat in different surrounding and company
- enjoy an eating experience that is unique to their time with their nanas and papas.
So it is up to you to say whether that is enough of an advantage for your children and whether therefore you can accept a bit of grandparent indulgence or rigidity with food choices/beliefs. If you find it hard to discuss feeding your children with grandparents I have a list of do’s and don’t for grandparents of fussy eaters, here, you can use it, add your own points and start a discussion.