Stop Codependently Giving Your Kids Junk

carrots at farmers market

Because we switched preschools this year, we had to explain the whole mother load of foods that Selah can not eat all over again. I’m nostalgically missing her old preschool, the one that was in our neighborhood before we moved. With the switch meant new teachers, new friends, new rhythms, and basically, new everything. I feel vulnerable for little Selah, who also misses her former beloved preschool, as well as all her classmates that she still remembers by name.

The snacks provided by her new preschool are mostly what I would consider junk. Forgive me for being so brazenly harsh because the problem is not Selah’s new preschool, it’s most American preschools. It’s a public preschool problem. The snacks. Seriously, the snacks. Goldfish is junk. Teddy Grahams? Junk. Animal crackers? Junk. Graham crackers? Junk. Cheez-its? Junk.

Can we please stop giving our preschoolers junk?

I confess to you that even I got caught up in the codependent snack trap. My daughter can’t have the snack that’s offered by her preschool due to her food allergies and intolerances. This means that I have to pack a snack, and that her snack will never be what the other kids are eating. This pokes on my vulnerability button, so much so, that I fear she’ll be rejected by her new friends if I pack something too different from what the other kids are eating. If all the other kids are eating junk for snack time, maybe I should send her with junk too (allergy friendly of course). I wanted her to fit in at the new preschool. I felt responsible for her acceptance. My codependency alert made a booming noise when I found myself wanting to send Selah with a snack that would receive a thumbs up from the other kids.

What I really wanted to do was send her to school with what she eats at home for morning snack: raw vegetables. Yet I didn’t want her to be the weird girl eating carrots all by herself, while she watched everyone else gobbling up Goldfish. Sometimes she asks for Goldfish and Cheez-its when she’s seen the other kids eat them. Most of the time it’s easy for her to eat her own food. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes she really does want what the other kids eat.

But then I saw that video that went viral where Louis C.K. talks about how he hates cell phones. The video empowered me with this truth: let your kid be the example of health.

first day of preschool

Don’t give your kid something toxic just because all the other kids are getting toxic things too.

By doing what is right for your child, by making the healthiest possible choice for her, your child will not only be an example to her peers but also to her teachers.

It is unhealthy to be guided by this emotional codependent tie with your child, where you fear your child experiencing peer rejection as a direct result of your wise parental decision. A sign that you might have this problem is when your decision making process revolves around how their peers are going to respond. Of course, it’s ok to consider how your child’s peers will respond, but it certainly should not be the deciding factor. If something in you needs your child’s classmates to approve of what you do as a parent, you’re swapping your role as a parent with a child who isn’t even a part of your family. What that really means is that you’re looking to a random child, who doesn’t have the maturity you do, to make a healthy decision for your kid.

Which is healthier for your child:  Teddy Grahams and peer acceptance (but only from your fear based perception) or carrots and parental confidence in healthy decisions with a trust for the unknown?

We can’t control how our children’s peers will react. Maybe the other kids won’t even care that your child is eating carrots. And if they do care, doesn’t it build character for your child to be different? Do you really want to keep sending junk food with your kid to school, just so he fits in, or do you want to bless your child’s future health?

We’ve got to stop feeding our kids junk just because all the other kids are eating junk. Let your kid show the other kids how to rock a green smoothie in the morning. Let your kid house the vegetables to show his friends and teachers how he doesn’t get sick all the time like the other kids do.

Those organic carrots at snack time will give your daughter beautiful skin, antioxidants for her eyes, immune protection, and cardiovascular longevity. They may even protect her from getting colon cancer. Teddy Grahams have got nothin’ on that.

Organic carrots, you win.

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7 Responses

  1. Rose Rothermel

    Had the same problem when my son was in school-they rewarded him with soda and candy! When I told them not to do that they continued doing it anyway! I think it made him get addicted to the sugar and become obese!


  2. Christie Atkins

    Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t Selah have both the healthy carrots and a small serving of the ‘fun’ food? You would then still have the confidence that you are nourishing her with healthy food and she would have the fun of sitting with her friends eating crackers in the shape of fish or teddy bears, which is fun for 4 year olds. Because isn’t the real joy of being a parent the balancing act between making good decisions for them but also allowing them to have fun and be accepted? Why else would I use the dinosaur cookie cutter on Noah’s sandwich then to turn it into the ‘cool dinosaur?’


    Dr. Archer

    Hi Christie! Thanks for your thoughts! You’re totally right — it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I struggle with finding the balance between writing my food opinions and giving away details about how my kids eat. Selah definitely gets junk. Since she’s in an all day program now, her afternoon snack is the “junk” one. I originally included those details when I was writing this post, but I ended up deleting them because the post was getting too long. Maybe I’ll follow up on it, since it looks like my kids are vegetable eating fairies. Haha.


    Christie Atkins

    Haha, no worries – I just thought I would throw my two cents in. Btw, I really like that pic of you!!


    Dr. Archer

    I loved that you threw your two cents in!


  3. Christie Atkins

    :) (it posted before I was able to add the emoticon.)


  4. Kelsey

    I love this!! So agree. Most of my nanny children (including yours of course!) have eaten healthy foods. Their parents and I just never introduced the junk. I remember picking up one of my nanny kids from preschool and a parent approaching me to comment on my nanny kids preschool snacks and how surprised they were that my kids would actually eat homemade hummus and veggies for snack. It’s so sad that healthy snacks for children are considered unusual.


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