When Your Child Won’t Eat at Christmas

I could have stopped this title early and just said, “when your child won’t eat.” That is my life, but somehow at Christmas it just seems so much worse. Ask people what they associate with Christmas Day and, after presents, Santa, and perhaps family, many will answer “Christmas dinner.” Advertisers have a field day this time of year, promoting the ideal family Christmas dinner with turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, and all sorts of vegetables and trimmings.

My daughter won’t eat any of that. She hardly eats at all.

Every day is a battle for her. Food is like some sort of enemy and, at eight, she is often still spoon fed.

She has no appetite and that does not change just because it is Christmas.

It isn’t even just Christmas dinner that food companies try and entice us with at this time of year. There is a huge market for selection boxes, boxes of chocolates, biscuits, Christmas cakes and puddings, festive drinks and even edible tree decorations. Food seems to be such an integral part of how we celebrate. 

Yet none of it appeals to my child.

Selection boxes would sit untouched in a cupboard forever. She has an Easter egg unopened in the cupboard from April that I will have to throw out at some point. She isn’t ungrateful… she just can’t bring herself to eat any of it.

It is heartbreaking to watch her when we all sit down to Christmas dinner. She wants to sit with us, she wants a plate of food; yet somehow the actual putting it in her mouth is so difficult. The more we focus on it, the worse her anxiety becomes. Now and again, a little amount may pass her lips and I want to dance and cry at the achievement, but that would make things worse.

I have to stay calm. When your child won’t eat, shouting at them won’t make it better.

I could try forcing her. That would make it worse too.

I have tried begging her. That doesn’t work either.

How do you explain to people that your child won’t eat? It isn’t even just at Christmas, either. It is every single day.

We are working through this together and we have made it through another year without having to have a feeding tube. This is huge progress for us.

Not eating Christmas dinner is actually not as much of a worry than the not eating all the time. Christmas just seems to make it seem worse somehow.

So, she will be spoon fed a little yoghurt for breakfast, and she may nibble on a little cut-up banana or a chocolate mini roll later in the day if she is relaxed enough. I will spoon feed her tiny amounts of potato during dinner and a little angel delight afterwards. She will drink a little juice if we don’t dwell on it. It will be a struggle, but Christmas is no different to any other day.

My daughter has an eating disorder that will not go away just because it is Christmas.

I dream that one day she may enjoy turkey, potato, vegetables and all the sides. For now though, I continue to hope that we make it to next Christmas without needing that feeding tube. That is my Christmas wish this year and every year.

Miriam Gwynne

Founder at Faith Mummy
Miriam lives in Scotland with her husband and twins. Trained as a teacher, she started blogging in 2013 when her son was diagnosed with the genetic condition nf1. Both twins have autism and Miriam describes her life as "sometimes challenging, mostly hectic, but always full of love."