You want your kids to have a healthy meal. Your spouse thinks it’s ok for the kids to dive directly into the pie. What now?
Or how about this one: You don’t think Grandma should insist on making the kids try unfamiliar foods. Your spouse doesn’t want to upset Grandma—she’s his mother. I could go on. There’s timing: Should the kids eat earlier or wait for the family? There’s quantity: Should the kids have to finish their food? There’s table time: How long should the kids have to sit? And then, of course, there are the cousins. I think you get my point. The Happy Thanksgiving Family might just be a myth. There’s a lot to, shall we say, discuss when you and your spouse disagree.
There can be a lot of conflict during regular “eating” hours too. But holiday-eating often kicks it up a notch.
What can you do when you and your spouse disagree?
1. Choose relationships over rules.
Don’t stress too much. Whatever happens on Thanksgiving Day won’t ruin your kids’ eating habits forever. Building positive family traditions, however, will stay with your kids for life.
2. Reframe conflict in terms of the habits you want your kids to learn.
Conflicts often get heated because the stakes seem high and we take things personally. (At least that’s what always happens to my husband and me!)
When you and your spouse disagree, reframe your conflict in terms of the habits you want your kids to learn. It makes the personal more practical. Tensions subside. Partners can become partners.
Proportion=eating healthier foods more frequently that junky foods. For Thanksgiving, think of this in terms of sprucing up eating in the days before and after Thanksgiving.
Variety=eating different foods from day-to-day and meal-to-meal. If you use the Rotation Rule, keep it going as much as possible but give it a pass on Thanksgiving. As for new foods? If your children are curious, give them a pea-sized sample of unfamiliar foods.
Moderation=eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and not eating because you’re bored, sad or lonely. But it’s Thanksgiving. Moderation means not throwing up. Tell your kids what’s on the menu for the entire day. They don’t automatically know this. Encourage them to save room for future favorites (pie at 3!). And ask them to pay attention to their tummies.
3. Be honest with your kids (without throwing your partner under the bus).
Talk to your children about your family’s goals for their longterm eating habits. And then discuss your goals for the day. Mention how sometimes these goals conflict. Brainstorm solutions together. Even young kids often have good ideas.
- You know we want you to have a healthy meal. At Thanksgiving there are lots of sweets and treats. What can we do?
- We know you don’t want to try new foods but we don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings. Any ideas on how we can handle that?
- We know you don’t like to sit at the table for too long. Thanksgiving tends to be a long meal. What are your ideas for staying at the table a little longer than usual?
- We know that it’s hard to resist all the tempting food that is out on Thanksgiving. But there are going to be snacks and then the main meal and then a huge dessert. Let’s talk about what food might be there and how you can have some of everything you like without overeating.
Think of this as a teaching moment. Habits are learned in stages.
Being out of sync with your partner when it comes to food is a big deal because eating is a major part of family time.
Focus on common goals. It will make it easier for you to teach your kids the habits they need for a lifetime of healthy, happy, holiday eating. The big picture. That’s what it’s all about.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~