Foster kids and food… It sure can be a fucked-up relationship.
**Helpful tips towards the end…
So, this morning I woke up and as soon as I opened my eyes, a DONUT flashed before me. I thought I was hallucinating, so I blinked my eyes and looked around…no donut. But the image of a Krispy Kreme Chocolate Ice Creme Filled Donut freaking haunted me from the bathroom to the kitchen to down and up the stairs with the dogs. Oh shit…have you evep to ar had one of those? Let me put it this way, they are so sweet that my lips pucker when I eat one.
Donuts kick depressions’s ass!.
Krispy Kreme is famous for the donut machine that they use… the first one in the Smithsonian (CLICK HERE). I have never been to the Smithsonian and dont know anything about it, but in the Krispy Kreme store, there are newspaper articles about it. Honestly, the freaking donuts should be in the Smithsonian!! You can smell them down the street…. and they melt in your mouth upon impact.
All I cared about was the donuts in my mouth…stuffing my feelings away.
Eating issues and disorders are not really funny. They can destroy lives, even if you don’t die from them. When you read my blog, it is does come across humorous, but the truth is, my relationship with food is FUCKED UP. Surprise!
Most foster kids relationship with food is
I am always amazed at how many foster parents DO NOT understand food issues or freak out about them. Seriously. Really freak out about them…
This blog should help you guys gain some perspective on the issue and work towards “healing” the child’s food issues. So calm down, stop freaking out that you found a month old, half-eaten banana in under the bed,….. and breathe.
Have you ever been starving? I don’t mean “oh, I didn’t eat dinner TODAY” starving — I mean you are so fucking hungry you eat paper to try to stop the pain in your stomach? or carpet? Starving where you can feel your stomach eating itself. That type of starving? For weeks? For longer? Have you?
I can remember one time being so hungry I decided to eat carpet from the floor. I was literally laying on the floor and pulling the carpet out with my teeth and eating it. The carpet was red and at the time it smelled good and I believed that it would stop me from being hungry… Other times I cried to my brother that I was so hungry. Know what his solution was? He found some newspaper and ripped it up and “showed me” how to eat it. Two little kids sitting on the ground eating newspaper to stop the starving. I ate all kinds of paper in my life.
At some point, the starving feeling stops. And then if you eat anything, you get sick. It’s a shock to your body to have food and you puke or your stomach hurts or you get diarrhea because its not used to having something in it. This sometimes happened during the summer months, when there was no free lunch because there was no school.
Have you ever wondered when your next any food item will come– when your parents will put something in the refrigerator or the cabinet? Anything at all? And you give up waiting and search the trash cans, willing to eat bread that is soggy? Or half-eaten pizza that you find under table trash and cigarette ashes from a restuarant?
AS A KID?
Welcome to my world.
So, when I got to foster care and there was food everyday…
I did not know what to do.
Eat it all immediately in case there was no more tomorrow?
Steal it and hide it all over, so I was sure to have some in case there was no more?
Not eat? — Because when you eat and then there is none again….the pain gets worse.
I did it all. What seems to drive foster parents nuts is kids (a) consuming everything and (b) hoarding and hiding food all over the place. I hid it in the closet, I hid it under the bed, I hid it under the mattress, I hid it in the pillow, and I hid it in clothes. I hid it anywhere that I thought it would be safe and where it would be MINE. Fucking everywhere. And man some foster parents would get pissed off big time…
It makes perfect sense!!! Comon’ – why punish a kid for doing what they are doing to survive? Fuck. I remember in one foster home when they found out I was hiding food; they “spanked” me and didn’t let me eat dinner — threatening the same punishment again if I didn’t stop hiding food. WTF? How is that helpful?
It’s normal behavior… in kids from abnormal worlds!!
I am always astonished that foster parents freak out about this — It makes so much sense. Put yourself in our shoes — we are surviving….
So what can help both the child and the foster parents?? Lord knows I am no therapist, but here are a few tricks that worked with me over the years…. I’ve mentioned the first one before, but it is so good, it needs to be mentioned again…
1.) Get a rubbermaid container and label it with your foster child’s name. Maybe even let them pick it out! Put it next to the bed, under the bed, in the closet, where-ever the child wants it. Let the child fill it with food — anything they want. All theirs. Anything. Every 2-3 days, go through the container WITH THE CHILD, removing food that is rotting, spoiling, etc. Discuss it.
HEAR THIS: Do not remove items without the child being with you. The child will know it is missing and you are taking control away from the child. Together — remove items.
Once a child feels safe that food will be available when needed, the hiding/hoarding usually ends.
2.) Don’t argue over mealtimes. If a child does not want to eat, do not force it. Forcing a child to eat everything on the plate or to eat at all, is using food as a power-tool. It adds to the already existing problem. If the child chooses not to eat, be prepared to provide a healthy alternative later. Sometimes there are reasons a child does not want to eat a certain item. For example: mayonaise or any white cream sauce or egg whites might remind the child of being sexually assaulted (semen)…. red sauce might remind the child of blood… pizza might have been the only thing the child ate from a trash can… you see?
3.) Don’t overwhelm the child with “new foods.” The child in your home may never have had chicken, or lasagna, or…..?? The child may have lived on a diet of pizza and bread and bologna. Be gentle when expecting the child to eat what you make. They may have come from a different world! Be prepared to explain what you are eating and to eat first. I can remember at times watching Ms. Liz, my first foster mom, eat first, before I put anything in my mouth.
4.) Set rules/boundaries around food. For example: “LT, if you are going to eat candy, you have to eat an apple first” or “LT, you can have 2 pieces of candy, not 20.” These will come with some resistance, but it helps to set healthy eating patterns, which the child may not know.
5.) Never punish a child by threatening no food. Period. Don’t threaten “no dinner.” Don’t threaten “going to bed without dinner” … anything like that. This sets up a battle of control and more problems around food. Many foster children are used to “no dinner” so by doing this, you are putting them back into their old world.
6.) At times offer food the child is accustomed to, if the child asks. This just shows that you are trying to connect. If the child’s favorite is bologna with pickles, offer it once and awhile if the child asks. That was part of their world before coming to you.
Food is a lifeforce and thus not eating or eating too much or puking it all out is control over life. In some people with no love in their life — food becomes “love” — something that would never betray you, abandon you, hurt you, hit you, abuse you….
... and until a child can begin to feel “safe love” and to understand that their needs will be met, food problems may continue.
… even into adulthood..
…and a dozen donuts.