We don't have "normal" family dinners at our house. But the good news is that we do take the time to have family dinners. The other night, we were piecing together leftover food in the refrigerator to make a dinner with. As I put it on the table, I felt that pain in my chest as I set my son's place and secretly asked myself "when will this change?". We have another, younger, son that eats healthy, age-appropriate foods, so dinner time is always chaos.
Can you tell which plate is my son's with the food intake disorder? It's hard to set a separate place, knowing that he feels different and wants to be the same. I check in with him every once in awhile to see if it bothers him and I try not to point out his difference.
My younger son will ask every once in awhile "Why can't I have chocolate pudding for dinner too?" I just tell him in private that his brother just "eats different foods". It does impact my youngest son to a degree. Some days he picks up on his big brother's eating example and starts eating all carbs, just like him. It gets frustrating.
The other thing that is difficult at dinner time is the behavior. My son with the food intake disorder gets really anxious and acts out. He stands, hangs off his chair, falls off his chair, acts goofy, makes funny noises, etc. I figured out it was anxiety with a therapist one day. I just thought he was being a defiant little boy, but it was suggested to me that he was really struggling with being in an uncomfortable situation at the dinner table and this was his response.
The therapist also suggested that we allow him to do what he enjoys while he eats - like watch cartoons. So, we do allow this at breakfast and lunch, but not at dinner. Regardless if my son has a disorder, we still have a family and we need time together. I frequently put on calming music and we all sit at the table together. And we try to survive our meal without incident, all the while offering patience and understanding to our son as we discipline his behaviors at the table.
At the end of the meal, we have all eaten and checked in on each other's day...regardless of the chaos :) I guess that's all we can ask for!
I am an ARFID Mom. I am the mother of a 12 year old boy with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). I have become the "expert" on my son's feeding issues. I am here to share what I've learned.