‘Why Can’t I Eat That? Helping Kids Obey Medical Diets’

By Dr. John F. Taylor and Ms. R Sharon Latta

“Why Can’t I Eat That? Helping Kids Obey Medical Diets” is a book that explores the psychological/emotional aspects of having a child with dietary restrictions because of a chronic medical condition, as well as practical behavioral and environmental tools for helping the child and family follow prescribed guidelines.

Dr. Taylor is a family psychologist and has written extensively on children and parenting and has worked with many children with special dietary needs. Ms. Latta offers information from her own personal experience of raising 4 children, each with dietary restrictions. She understands firsthand the adjustments that are necessary for the children, as well as those within the family system. She often shares her expertise by consulting with professionals and speaks at schools, mental health groups, and parent support groups.

The bottom line of this book, in my opinion, is stated in this sentence: “Your child must learn to be responsible for his/her dietary choices” (p.95). However, getting to that point as your child grows is easier said than done! This book does an excellent job of exploring all types of “roads and potholes” that journey may encounter. The point that is stressed throughout the book is that working with dietary restrictions is not only the child’s concern, but a family issue. The child lives within a dynamic family situation and environment, and personalities, as well as the specific medical condition involved (and the cognitive/physical/emotional capabilities of the child), are going to pose different challenges for the child, the siblings, the parents, and others that come in contact with the child.

The authors discuss parent/child/family issues from an emotional level, as well as cognitive and behavioral perspectives. Understanding and accepting that all three interact and impact each other will assist families in their challenge of motivating their child to cooperate with the special dietary needs.

The first two sections describe how it is necessary for parents to understand their OWN hearts (emotions) and minds after learning of their child’s medical and dietary needs. They are then more aware of how important it is to model EFFECTIVE ways of working through “hurdles” that most likely will occur possibly on a day-to-day basis as their child grows and shares in more responsibility (if capable) for their diet and healthcare.

The last two sections discuss finding support inside and outside the family and suggestions of what to do when the diet routine is not followed, such as during holidays, hospitalizations, or when a child protests having to be on a restricted diet. They also discuss how siblings are affected by the diet and how they can be of help.

Some of the suggestions and tools offered throughout this book may not fit your personal family situation. However, I am sure you will find many relevant suggestions “to open doors of communication and cooperation within your family ” (p.xxii). Communication is IMPERATIVE on a one-to-one basis, as well as within family dynamics and working with professionals.

One of the authors’ goals is “that this guidebook will become a family reference source, one to be employed often” (p.xxii). As far as MY situation is concerned, they have accomplished that goal!

Deb Lee Gould, Co-Editor July 1998 FOD Communication Network