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Lent and children

Passing on a healthy eating attitude to your children

Every year at Lent we hear of people giving up chocolate…well, it seems to be the most common one I hear.  I’ve written about this before, and I’m writing it again.  

Really is chocolate the most significant thing that will make a difference during Lent?  Is it really such a sacrifice?  One year I heard the priest talk about how he had given up chocolate and was going to probably make himself sick with chocolate on Easter Sunday. 

I don’t have any issues with Lent itself, but I do disagree with school children being encouraged to change eating habits at this period, and then to find they binge at Easter-time.  
As parents and teachers I don’t think it’s wise to pass on our food issues of weight loss or cleaning up our diet onto children; who invariably need plenty calories and a balanced diet with a healthy attitude towards food.  If you’re primary age child is eating too much chocolate, biscuits or sweets then I’m afraid that’s not their fault.  As a parent we have a responsibility to ensure children eat sensible amounts of ‘treats’ and they shouldn’t feel they have to be restricting their diet at a young age.

For the last few years my 3 children (all under 13 years) have came home from school telling me they are giving up biscuits or chocolate at Lent. 

As parents and teachers we are the role models for our children, in the way we talk about food and our attitude to a healthy balanced diet and body image.  I wonder how many eating disorders are triggered in teenagers who decided to restrict their diet at Lent.

So my advice is this.  If you want to clean up your diet at Lent that’s fine, just watch how you discuss it with your children…I’d suggest not to at all.  They are listening to your words, thoughts and behaviours around food.  If it’s all about ‘indulgence’ or ‘feeling deprived’ during Lent then this message is filtered down to your children.  

In my work I meet countless adults who have built up disordered eating patterns from lessons learned in childhood.  Speak positively about a nutritious balanced diet which allows for chocolate, ice-cream and biscuits in moderation, as well as all the other nourishing foods. 

Instead for Lent, why not encourage them to do something helpful everyday around the house, be kinder to their siblings, to eat another piece of fruit or give up their gadgets? 

If you need more advice on disordered eating or CBT contact Julie@absolute-wellness.co.uk 

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