Parenting Picky Eaters

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Effective Parenting training

Manage Picky Eating at Home

SPACE – ARFID to help manage the needs of Picky Eaters

Many children are picky eaters. This is part of normal development and is common around ages 2-3 years. In most cases, by the time the child is 6-7 years old, they naturally begin to expand their diet and eat a greater variety of foods. But sometimes this doesn’t happen, and children remain very picky and over time become even pickier, eliminating additional foods from their diet.

SPACE-ARFID is a parent-based treatment for children with extreme picky eating, or ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). In ARFID, restricted eating is not driven by fear of gaining weight or distorted body image. If this is the case, a different eating disorder should be considered such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

In many cases, ARFID can have serious medical consequences because the body is denied essential nutrients it needs to function normally. This can lead to problems like anemia, feeling tired, difficulty concentrating, irritability, constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, sleep problems, electrolyte imbalances, impaired immune functioning and more. Therefore, it is important to consult with your pediatrician if you suspect your child has ARFID.

Even when a child’s weight and medical condition are not compromised, ARFID can lead to meaningful interference in daily functioning. For example, a child with ARFID may limit their social life to avoid the distress of dealing with food in public and in many families, the ARFID is a constant source of conflict between family members and can lead to avoidance of family activities, trips and vacations.

Can you recognize yourself and your family in this? Is your family constantly making adjustments to menus, cancelling social or restaurant visits because your child’s favourite food is not available, or perhaps you have had enough of having to prepare various meals just to satisfy your child’s pickiness?

SPACE-ARFID aims to treat children and adolescents with ARFID. Although children do not have to attend treatment sessions – they are the patients! When SPACE-ARFID treatment is successful children feel less distressed and function better in food-related situations.

Usually, parents (and other caregivers) participate in SPACE-ARFID treatment sessions. In most cases, the child or adolescent does not need to attend the treatment sessions. Sometimes, it is helpful to involve the child in the treatment process.

The goal of SPACE-ARFID is to increase the child’s flexibility around food and improve their adjustment to food-related situations. Parents who participate in SPACE-ARFID will learn specific skills and tools to help their children achieve these goals and function better around food. The treatment focuses on changes that parents can make to their own behaviour; they do not need to make their children change.

The three main changes that parents learn to make in SPACE-ARFID treatment are to respond more supportively to their child, to reduce food-related stress, and to reduce the accommodations they have been making to the child’s symptoms.


Registration & Participation Fee

The fee includes access to scheduled Zoom sessions. Additional content and assignment is provided in the learning management system.

Frequently Ask Questions about SPACE.

Our focus on your behaviour as a parent does not mean that you are to blame for your child's anxiety. You are not the problem here, however you are an important part of the solution. Anxiety disorders make it difficult for children to function independently. They tend to rely heavily upon their parents to help them cope rather than learning to cope on their own. As parents, we don't like to see our children suffering. It is natural to for parents to step in, take action and provide relief for their children when they are in discomfort. Parents are often torn between the need to help their child to feel better  and the desire to show them that there is no real danger. SPACE Training focuses on changes that parents  make to their own behaviour, because we actually can't make other people change, we can only change how we respond. 

SPACE Training takes between 8 to 12 sessions, depending on the family situation.

Even though the boundaries between counselling, coaching, training, therapy are sometimes blurry, SPACE Training is classified as psychoeducation. It is not conventional counselling or therapy, psychotherapy, or psychological service.

Parents (and other caregivers) require a device with high-speed Internet access as well as the Zoom application. The training itself will take place in our learning management system, in which participants can also find the workbook, materials, and worksheets. Since the training is online, parents are required to ensure 60 to 90 minutes of uninterrupted time. Please make sure all distractions are off and children and pets are occupied.

Correct. SPACE Training is parent-based and therefore only the parent (or other caregivers) attend.

This happens A LOT! You see, children notice your change in behaviour. Since they are depending on the parent to continue to accommodate their anxiety, kids may start to revolt. SPACE Training has two separate problem-solving modules about self-harm/threats and aggression that are highly recommended to implement if your family is experiencing extreme difficulties. Depending on the need, one or two problem-solving modules may be required. Each takes one to two sessions.

Not a problem. SPACE Training has a separate module for cooperation between parents. It is NOT family and marriage counselling. This module focused on the shared interest of managing childhood anxiety at home.

Yes and No. SPACE Training has incorporated the SPACE Treatment program, supplemented by various additional exercises to make the program even more effective. SPACE Treatment also focuses on OCD, whereas SPACE Training only focuses on childhood anxiety.

Yes! I know how parents feel after dealing with childhood anxiety a lot. When I first learned about the full SPACE Treatment program, I was like, "No way, it can't work like this. The focus has to be on the child and not on me."

But Just think about it. Parents learn one step at the time, from the time their children are born. Each experience is new, and each of these experiences can become successful when parents use the right approach. But sometimes parents need to learn what that approach is, just like learning any other skill. Childhood anxiety is not the parent's fault, but they can be part of the solution. Isn't that something any child is worth?