WHAT IF all the health and medical professionals began reporting that chips and crackers are the new "in" health foods? How would you view your ARFID child now? Would all the pressure come off? Would the nights of crying cease? Would you let go of it all and learn to relax and just love your child? Think about all of the ARFID "weight" that you carry around as a parent that you just need to let go of.
As parents, we are not in a good place to help our children succeed in life or find a place of recovery, if we are not in a good place ourselves. This is no different than the analogy of putting your oxygen mask on first. Ask yourselves, are you putting your oxygen mask on first? I know most of you are not. I used to be that ARFID mom, but not anymore.
The day I began listening to my son's body language, because he was too young to express himself to me, was the day that I let go of the ARFID. His body language was telling me that he was scared, and he was ashamed, and that he thought he was doing something wrong EVERY SINGLE DAY. And do you know where he got these ideas??? From me. Because of my stress around him. Because I would panic and cry about his ARFID. Because I would constantly tell him that he needed to eat nutritious foods or he would end up sick. I always did this in a loving way, but my concern for him was getting in the way of us living life and being happy.
Does panicking about all of the possible things that can go wrong help my son recover? No. Does being under constant stress help me be open to a possible solution for recovery? No. Does explaining to my son that what he eats is crap? No. There is nothing to be gained in all of these negative emotions and negative actions. Even if they are from a place of love.
That day, I cried for a different reason. I cried because I let it all go. I let the ARFID leave my body - the stress of it all just washed away. I made the choice to be happy and help my son be happy WITH his ARFID. We needed to embrace where we were at in order for us to find where we were going. Where we wanted to go was to a positive place of recovery. And all of us need to recover, not just my son.
Today, my son is no further along eating new foods. He still eats his chips and crackers and drinks chocolate milk. But we do not stress at all about it. We enjoy our lives together. We have fun. We don't talk about ARFID. We talk about foods and how I had to spit out a Brussel sprout the other night, because it turns out I don't like them :). He got to see that we all have foods we don't like. We don't talk about what he is lacking, rather we high five what he is getting in. We say. "good job eating that peanut butter cracker today! That's some good protein."
My son is very successful at school, he prefers his electronics over sports, but he still signs up for recreational activities, we have fun playing board games every week as a family, he brushes his teeth, even uses mouth wash now, and he gets plenty of sleep. He is a normal kid. And he is happy. I am not going to ruin that for him just because he eats differently.
I started to think about it like a food allergy. My son has a limited diet. If someone needs to know, then I just say, "he has a special diet". Most people assume food allergies, so they don't even ask about it. In fact, ARFID is easier than food allergies. Have you ever thought about that? My younger son has tree nut allergies and I worry far more about him.
Parents, I strongly encourage you to let the ARFID go. Stop letting it control your happiness. Do what you have to and find a place of joy and appreciation for what you have in life. It is so much more enjoyable to experience. The solutions will come. Our children will heal. Don't let it consume you and waste your precious time together.
Hugs to you all!
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.