You asked the questions, child psychologist Dr Aaron Frost gives you the answers. Email your questions to email@example.com.
My eight year old is a real terror around dinner time. He doesn’t like a lot of vegetables. Is there a psychological reason that he isn’t wanting to eat these foods?
Yes, vegetables are psychologically the least tasty of all the food groups. Before I get letters from my vegan friends, let me explain what I mean. The human brain is programmed for survival, it is a pretty powerful operating system designed solely to make sure you make it all the way till sunset and wake up the next morning every day. When you are dehydrated, your brain creates thirst. When your blood sugars are low or your fat stores are depleted, the body creates hunger. Unfortunately, despite being brilliant, the body is also a bit thick, so it mostly likes to feed itself with stuff high in fat, sugar and salt. ALL junk food has these three things in abundance and they are the key survival ingredients. Unfortunately, they also make you fat, rot your teeth and will lead to an early grave. The job of parents is to help develop eating habits that are healthy for the long term. Generally a child won’t choose to eat healthy if there is something tastier on offer – or they think they can whinge their way into something later. I am a big fan of household-wide junkfood bans for a month or so. Nothing but homecooked meals. Once children learn that that is all that is on offer, they will accept it.
My six year old wants to have sleepovers at his friends’ houses and vice versa. I feel he is too young. While he does have sleepovers at his grandparents’ house and at his aunt/uncle’s house, what is the right age for kids to have their first ‘friends’ sleepover and is it wrong for me not to feel trust in other parents’ capabilities when it comes to my kids?
Not at all – your instinct to not trust other parents to look after your kids is natural and healthy. The real question is not “What is the right age?”, the real question is “Who are the right people?”. When children are little, they don’t have much control over what happens to them. It is our job to protect them and we do this partly by making sure they are only looked after by people we trust implicitly. Usually, this is family, but sometimes it can be very close friends. One of the best things you can do as a parent is to get know your kids’ friends and their parents. Once you have spent some time with the families of their friends you will have a much better instinctive sense of whether or not this is someone you can trust your kids with.
Dr Aaron Frost is a clinical psychologist and director of Benchmark Psychology at Mount Gravatt.