Food Issues have been a topic of discussion on one of the adoption boards this week. While talking to my mother-in-law, Debbi, I realized that she, and probably a lot of other people who are close to us, do not know a whole lot about this aspect of adoption.

 Some of the common issues –especially in terms of international adoption–are hoarding food, hiding food, sneaking food, eating non-stop, and gorging at meal time. Depending on the country and conditions of the specific orphanages, coupled with the child’s personality and background, these issues can be dramatic and difficult or they can be almost non-existent.

One of the women asking for suggestions this week recently brought home children from Haiti. I realize that Haiti is very different from Colombia in terms of amount of food available and other care provided in the orphanages. Regardless, I thought would share my post in response to her request. I hope it is helpful to anyone who might be thinking about adoption or going through the same issues. Here it is: 

We brought four Colombian siblings home about five months ago (our first adoption, and our only children). For us, the best thing we did was ignore the books and advice…especially in regard to food. Instead, we set out structured meal and snack times, and we were very strict on how much they could eat. Once in awhile, they didn’t like the food, but they knew if they didn’t eat, they would go without until the next snack or meal time. Instead of letting them go crazy with their eating we fostered other cues that showed them a new relationship with food.–We took all of the children to the grocery store for the first month. The first trip they were in complete wonder. And when we went to check out, they didn’t want us taking the food out of the baskets (I’m sure most of you have had this same moment in time). After a few times of going to the store, they understood that we could purchase whatever we run out of! It stopped a lot of the worry very quickly. We actually accomplished this step while still living in Colombia our first month together.–We talked constantly about the foods that our bodies must have so that they are healthy, and Adam and I modeled our own food choices for them.

–We worked on how to eat…slowly with little drink.

–The children are not allowed to have food outside of the kitchen.

The seven and eight year old adjusted right away. The six year old girl, just recently starting finishing most of her food. Sometimes she still makes the choice not to eat…but she is still healthy and thriving so I don’t worry too much. She’ll actually ask for seconds every so often now. And she asks for sweets a lot less than she used to.

Our five year old boy–the baby–was/is our little garbage disposal. And he would still eat seconds, if we let him. He has learned, however, to chew slowly and swallow his food before taking another bite. Also, he only gets a rationed amount of liquid with his
meal…he has learned to make it last instead of gulping it and asking for more.

The first week, our three older kids tried giving their food to Juan P. and they even tried saying they weren’t hungry anymore so he could have their leftovers. Very sweet, but not acceptable. After a few times of us throwing their food away instead of feeding our little garbage man, they stopped offering. And during that week, Juan P. gained four pounds–I can relate to the belly always sticking out…that was him. Since being home, he has slimmed down and looks much healthier. But if we let him keep gorging, I am convinced he still would be doing it five months later, and he wouldn’t have learned the lessons as quickly as he did.

I know others will completely disagree with me, and I understand why. But for us, being hard and strict on the front end, consistently saying, “NO”, and limiting seconds and sweets has helped us to have little or no food issues in our home. In fact, I don’t even think about it anymore.
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My dad couldn’t understand at Christmas why we wouldn’t just let the kids have whatever they wanted. 🙂 This is why! We have done a lot of work the past five months, and it is far from over. It is so rewarding though to see the growth in our children. If anyone has any specific questions about our situation or about how we have handled food in our home, please feel free to email us or comment.

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