Children are finally back at school and many parents are sighing a collective sigh of relief.
While parents no longer have to worry about what their kids are doing during the day, how to keep them entertained or find someone to take care of them while they are at work, there is a list of other woes that come along with the kids being back at school.
There’s the painstaking process of covering books and labelling of stationery, and hours spent trying to figure out what your child’s homework is before you can sit down and help them with it.
Even if you passed mathematics higher grade, these days your kids' grade three maths homework tasks will likely humble you.
Then there’s the early morning school run.
“I don’t want to go to school” and “ten more minutes please” are common responses to your attempts to get them out of bed, bathed and dressed.
By the time you have those essential tasks completed, you’re already exhausted but your greatest battle of the morning is yet to come.
It’s breakfast time and your fussy eater not budging on the, “I don’t want to eat” protest.
We’ve all watched movies where happy families sit around the breakfast table while the mom makes flapjacks and bacon, dad catches up with the daily news and imparts words of wisdom and daily inspiration, while the children obediently sit and eat their breakfast as they talk about their day ahead.
Now unless you’re one of the fortunate few who happens to be living that idyllic movie set life, most of us face a daily struggle, one can even call it a war, of trying to get our children to have breakfast before heading off to school.
As a mom of an eight-year-old, I know the struggle, oh, too well. No amount of explaining, begging, threatening or guilt-tripping would get her to have breakfast before school until she finally realized for herself why it was important.
There are days when one simply doesn’t have the energy to fight about the issue, caves in and let the child go without eating, and I’m sure I’m not the only parent who’s guilty of this.
It was on one of those days that my daughter came home and with her head hanging low, admitted defeat as she confessed that she started feeling hungry long before the first break when she could finally have something to eat.
While she now understands the importance of having something to eat before she goes to school, we often still have a fight about what something is.
After a few weeks of trial and error, we finally came to the consensus that could have a bowl of cereal of her choice as long as that cereal has my nod of approval.
Portia Skosana is another mom who can relate to my, and so many other parents, breakfast struggle.
Skosana gave her 6-year-old son the talk that all our parents gave us.
“Last year I told him that kids die of hunger, their intestines shrink and you die. Secondly, I told him that they will not accept him in Grade R because he won't look his age”, was her subtle combination of guilt-tripping and mild threat.
However, she has come up with a solution that works. One which seems to work for many including myself.
“What works the most is to choose his own cereal because he is a big boy of six now. Every month he will choose a cereal he likes. He likes choco pops but this month he's having Choc shells chocolate flavoured cereal. That's work perfect for me. Even though they are overpriced, he loves them and eats them every morning before he goes to school.”
In the same way, we as parents struggle with our children, our parents had the same problem with us. I have clear memories of being forced to sit down, half asleep, to eat a bowl of mealie-meal porridge, thinking that one day when I’m a grown-up I won't force my kids to eat it.
Ra-ees Moerat shares his childhood breakfast memory.
“My grandma used to make us eggs for breakfast every day. But she never added salt or pepper so it tasted like bland protein. I once complained about it and she said she will continue to make it that way because there are kids in this world who don’t have food.”
“Every time my cousins and I didn’t finish the breakfast, she would charge us 50 cents. I can still remember us sitting at the breakfast table and trying to get that egg down.”
As adults, we can decide whether or not we want to have breakfast but it’s our responsibility to make sure our children do.
If you still haven’t found the perfect solution here are a few tricks you can try until you find a solution that works for you and your little one.
Get an early start
They will hate you for it but it will give them more time to get ready to have something to eat. Trying to rush a tired child through a process they already don’t enjoy makes things difficult for everyone. It causes unnecessary tension and anxiety for both the parent and child. In order for them to wake up earlier means bedtime should be earlier as well.
Find something they enjoy eating and keep portions small
Trying to force your child to eat something they don’t enjoy is a battle at any mealtime. While you might have more time and energy to fight that battle at the dinner table, breakfast isn’t.
Whether it’s their favourite fruit or cereal, as long as it’s something they actually enjoy, they will look forward to eating it.
Don’t overwhelm your child with large portions either.
It’s easier to get a child to have a small portion of food rather than forcing them to eat more and then make them feel bad for not wasting food by not finishing all their meal.
Try a liquid breakfast
Kids love smoothies. Kind of reminds them of milkshakes. And what kid doesn’t love milkshakes!
You can put just about anything into their smoothies.
A mixture of their favourite fruit blended with oats and yoghurt make the perfect drinkable snack packed with all the goodies you would want them to eat.