Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Food Hoarding

My good friend Linda has some of this going on at her house. It is a common occurrence in children who suffered from neglect in their early years. I believe there are several reasons why. Here is what I've been told. First: If the child was in an orphanage or on the streets for the first few years this may have been the norm for survival. While you may be providing them with plenty of food now this old fear of not having enough runs deep. Second: If they suffered neglect they were sometimes not fed. They still have this same fear of not getting what they need. Third: There is something wrong. Their is a whole in their heart and they are filling it with food because they don't know what is wrong. (How many of us are guilty of emotional eating? I'm raising my hand) Fourth: Food is the on consistent thing in their lives of constant moving, betrayal and abandonment. It takes on the emotional quality of a friend who comforts them.

There are several ways to deal with this. I have one friend who says his kids can "Eat what you want as it is not right before a meal." This takes all emotion from the food as far as emotion given by mom about it. I have heard of people preparing a goody bag of acceptable foods and having them keep it in their room. It should be made clear that you understand they need this while they are developing their trust in you. They need to know that others in the house who have developed the trust don't have these goody bags and they won't need them for ever either. They are to let you know when they don't need it any more. Alarms on the bedroom door prevent midnight refrigerator raids. We do this or entire boxes of food disappear. Snuggle time each day when you feed them caramels or vanilla ice cream from your hand to their mouth can help satisfy this need for sugar.

I don't know if any of this helps. This is a tough area if you let your emotions enter the picture. It has to be seen as a symptom of an illness. It is a part of RAD. We need to work on building empathy, trust, gentle physical touch. Just treating the symptoms is like treating the symptom of a physical illness. The symptom will not fully subside until the illness is gone.

If your child has been healing from RAD as Linda's child and Taz have, this can be a clear warning sign that they are regressing and need some TLC. If they had the flu would we be angry? No we would give them TLC. Same needs to happen here. Easier said then done, I know. Be the grown up here. Be strong. Together we can help our children heal.


Jeannie Davis said...

Have a question: Have you ever dealt with a child that had "love" deliberately held back from them? They're afraid to trust love that is now shown to them but, once they realize it as what it is, suddenly become extremely clingy to the person showing it to them, acting as if they're somehow starving for it and to the point that what few people they do this with, all of those people come back with the same complaint that they are always feeling drained after they've spent time with that child? That they act almost like they've been starved for an emotion rather than food and never seem satisfied no matter how much they get? Could this be connected to RAD in some way? This particular child was sexually molested from the ages of 4 to 8 and was physically abused the entire time they were with the biological parents. Please help if you can.

Brenda said...

Yes, being clingy can be one of the symptoms of RAD. You described what the child is feeling really well. I would talk often with the child about being safe. You are not leaving. The parenting that works for kids who avoid contact would also work for one who clings because the ultimate goal is trust. Maybe you could set certain times during the day, several times a day for snuggling and phsyical contact. Let the child know what is appropriate in public, such as "You may hold my hand if you feel afraid but you may not hang on my arm." Is this the kind of help you need or is there something else?

Anonymous said...

Well, finally she told me about the feelings she was holding on to. She knows that holding in her feelings brings on the food hoarding and the bad behaviors but she doesn't know why it is so hard for her to talk to me. She seems much happier now that it is out.
Linda N

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Jeannie Davis said...

Brenda, I could be wrong, and hope I am, but I think the last posting (the one by anonymous) has a broken link to a virus. Just a sinking suspicion.

Anonymous said...

ok I have teen age stepson who has been in my life for over 6 years, just this summer boxes of food have come up missing. There is only one other child in the house, my daughter,9. Never before has this happened. He won't admit to it & I haven't found the food stash yet (I've searched everywhere, but I can't help but know that it is him. My husband & I both are at a loss, we don't know what to do or what is going on. Please help!

research said...

I am currently doing research on adults who survived adoption or foster care and how it affected their adult behavior, specifically in their relationships to food. As you have dealt with or are dealing with children who have these issues, I wonder if you have any knowledge of what happens to them as adults? I also would like to get first hand accounts from these kids and their families- find out how it started, when it started, and how the food hoarding dominates everyday living. I know many children/teenagers may have a background of neglect (possibly due to adoption or foster care) where the food supply was insecure and therefore feel they need to keep as much of it as they can to guard against future hunger. As adults, however, does the need to overstock, hide, or hang on to food still exist?

If anyone has any comments, suggestions, possible leads, please let me know. I'd really like to get more information out there and possibly help others who have the same relationship with food but are too overwhelmed to seek help.

Thanks in advance!

Mom of 5 Adopted said...

I'd love to know how to stop this. I feel like I've done everything.
What do the adults say us parents could do different.