My child refuses to eat in the canteen

Your child hates the canteen: the food would be disgusting, the noise, deafening, the "service ladies" would scream too much. These recriminations, shared by a large number of primary school students, deserve to be listened to, but relativized.

Anne Lanchon

"The canteen may seem hostile to a young child," says child psychiatrist Gilles-Marie Valet, "he finds new foods, has to eat his meal very quickly, in a high-energy atmosphere; Pasta comes to him, the gratin is gone ... We are at the antipodes of the cozy atmosphere of the family kitchen.This is sometimes added a feeling of abandonment or injustice, if his mother stays at home with a new- born, for example. "

" Half-board, unlike school, is not mandatory, says the therapist, which explains why the child tries to escape it. with the meal with the family, around which circulates a lot of affection.The child is not perhaps ready to accept that a third person occupies this nourishing function, in the heart of their relation.It can also "add" if he feels that his mother or father, driven by a feeling of guilt or by unpleasant personal memories, are willing to give in. "

The problem for working parents is that they have no choice. They must explain it to him, stating that he is not the only one in this case, to relativize. To accustom their child to eat everything, they have an early interest in diversifying their menus, not to mention fish and green vegetables. They can also invite buddies from time to time, to familiarize him with noisy tables, to teach him to wait. Invited in return, he will discover elsewhere new dishes.

Ideally, where possible, it should be done two or three times a week in the first year, taking turns with other parents to take the remaining meals. With time, no doubt he will ask to attend the canteen every day to find his friends. Lunch is framed by long breaks, ideal for playing football or exchanging confidences. "If the external student is resting at home at noon, part of the relational life of the school is missing - the friendship stories, jokes ... - and risks feeling excluded, admits Gilles-Marie Valet. It is, moreover, a place of understanding of the social rules, where he learns to share, to manage his frustrations, where he forms his Taste and grow in autonomy. "

On the other hand, if your child complains about the canteen while he was enjoying it until then, the question needs to be deepened.An evasive response may mask a situation of rejection, which he particularly suffers in the refectory, for example if no one wants to sit near him. It should be discussed with the staff and the mistress, who will look after the grain.


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