Comfort food- it's a common concept in the world, isn't it? We end a significant relationship, and drown our sorrows in ice cream, chocolate, and/or alcohol. Or perhaps we are sick, get up on the wrong side of the bed, or feel whatever somewhat negative emotion, and we turn to food. Sometimes we choose healthier options, like chicken noodle soup. But often less than stellar choices, such as fried chicken, poutine, or pizza, make it into our bellies. Even though this is something I'm aware of, I can tell you from personal experience that food is often something I turn to "for comfort".
I try, as a parent, not to equate food with emotional upheaval but it's an uphill battle. Our society uses food for everything- celebration to mourning, reward for a job well done to coping with tragedy. Yesterday my youngest son was feeling sad because his older brother didn't want to play. I can understand the big brother's choices - I used to find it a hassle to play with my little brother, and there were far fewer years between us - but my youngest son felt sad and heartbroken.
I snuggled with him on the couch and asked if he wanted to go out with me to run errands and stop for a cookie. "Cookies won't make it better, mom". "No," I said, "I know. But it's a special treat for you and mom. We get to spend some time together and, after we get our work done, I'll have a coffee and you can have a cookie and some milk before we come home". He agreed to come with me although he was quick to remind me that it wasn't as much fun as playing with his brother. And I know that but it was all I could think of at that moment to stop him from crying so hard.
I know, I know. I used food not only as a treat, but also as an emotional respite. However, after thinking about it for the last day I can't come up with another solution. I don't think it's my job to try to make him happy all the time. I know we need to equip our kids with the ability to recognize emotions, accept them, and find a way to deal with them. Overall he is pretty good at it - he recognizes feelings as they happen, such as anger, disappointment, happiness, and sadness. He can assess situations and identify what other people are feeling. It's difficult to teach our kids how to deal with emotions, especially the negative ones, in a healthy way when I myself am still learning these lessons.
I don't have a ready answer but I think just being aware of the issue is a step in the right direction. If any of you have any suggestions or comments that relate to the tendency to self-medicate with food I would be happy to hear them and share them.
All the best, friends!