Article by Sella Khouri, McGill Dietetics Student 

What is caffeine: 

 Caffeine, a xanthine alkaloid compound, is consumed widely and daily by humans. It is a popular stimulant worldwide that is frequently consumed to enhance mood, alertness, muscle endurance, exercise performance, and work productivity.

Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, guarana, kola nuts and yerba mate Caffeine can also be synthesized and is added to foods and beverages, including soft drinks, energy drinks, and energy shots, and to tablets marketed for reducing fatigue. Coffee and tea are among the most popular beverages worldwide and contain substantial amounts of caffeine. These beverages have been consumed for hundreds of years and have become an important part of cultural traditions and social life.



How does caffeine impact our bodies: 

Caffeine has many impacts on our bodies and has numerous physiological effects, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and smooth muscle, as well as effects on mood, memory, alertness, and physical and cognitive performance.

The molecular structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind to adenosine receptors inhibiting the effects of adenosine. Therefore, caffeine intake triggers arousal and alertness, improves mood, and causes the release of catecholamines, which induce beneficial effects on human behavior. Nevertheless, caffeine has been related to other beneficial effects such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that are important to human health. 

A recent study showed that caffeine taken 0.5–4 h prior to a meal may suppress acute energy intake. Therefore, caffeine may play a role in energy balance by reducing appetite and increasing the basal metabolic rate and food-induced thermogenesis.

In addition, studies had shown that caffeine can reduce the risk of several diseases, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson disease. It also plays a mild diuretic effect by inhibiting fluid reabsorption along proximal renal tubules.

In terms of the relationship between caffeine and kidney stones, data from 3 large cohort studies have reported the association between caffeine consumption and a lower risk of kidney stone disease despite caffeine-rich beverages have been recognized to contain oxalate and increase urinary calcium excretion.

Safe amounts:

Age Group Recommended maximum daily intake
Adults (18 years and over) 400 mg
People planning to become pregnant 300 mg
People who are pregnant 300 mg
People who are breastfeeding 300 mg
Children and adolescents (up to 18 years) 2.5 mg per kg of body weight


 Side effects of excessive intake: 

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Caffeine can leave you feeling nervous or anxious particularly at high doses (>200 mg per occasion or >400 mg per day), increase your heartbeat or give you a headache. Caffeine consumption later in the day can increase sleep latency and reduce the quality of sleep all of which can hurt your performance. If you get any of these symptoms, try a smaller dose or simply avoid it. 

If you regularly include caffeine in your diet and you suddenly stop having it, you may have withdrawal effects such as headaches or drowsiness. 

Caffeine in the form of energy drinks and shots may have more adverse effects than other caffeinated beverages since these beverages can be consumed very quickly, and the caffeine is released into your bloodstream rapidly unlike hot coffee or tea which can be sipped slowly. Another factor could be due to lack of clarity on the part of consumers about caffeine content.

Caffeine and exercise: 

Caffeine intake has also shown ergogenic effects, which are attributed to different factors, such as enhanced substrate utilization, fatigue delay, and alertness. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and improves muscle contraction and some motor skills. Therefore, it may help by making exercise feel easier, increasing endurance and improving short-term high-intensity performance. Caffeine can be taken before or during exercise to feel the benefits.

Research show that 1 to 3 mg of caffeine per kg (0.5 to 1.4 mg per lb) body weight taken before or during exercise may improve performance. For a 70 kg (154 lb) person, this equals 70 to 210 mg caffeine, which is the amount found in 1 cup of brewed coffee.



Barcelos, R. P., Lima, F. D., Carvalho, N. R., Bresciani, G., & Royes, L. F. (2020). Caffeine effects on 

systemic metabolism, oxidative-inflammatory pathways, and exercise performance. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.)80, 1–17. 

Health Canada (2022) Caffeine in Foods, Gouvernement du Canada. Available at: additives/caffeine-foods.html. 

Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the 

Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients12(10), 3080. 

Peerapen, P., & Thongboonkerd, V. (2018). Caffeine in Kidney Stone Disease: Risk or 

Benefit?. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)9(4), 419–424. 

Schubert, M. M., Irwin, C., Seay, R. F., Clarke, H. E., Allegro, D., & Desbrow, B. (2017). Caffeine, 

coffee, and appetite control: a review. International journal of food sciences and nutrition68(8), 901–912.

Van Dam, R. M., Hu, F. B., & Willett, W. C. (2020). Coffee, Caffeine, and Health. The New England journal of medicine383(4), 369–378. 

Healing through movement and dance

Article by Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.

“Dance therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the use of movement as the medium of change” (Chaiklin, 1975: 701). It contemplates the psycho-dynamic relationship to movement, to dance, and the transformation of the self. Dance Movement Therapy is not about performance, skill, or beauty. It is about a personal connection, and an understanding of the bidirectional mind-body and body-mind connection, it is about the appreciation of a different way of expressing emotions, thoughts, feelings, conflicts. Dance Movement Therapy can also be about exploring strength and regaining control of what was lost through a movement expression.

“Movement change and psychological change are integrally connected. Cognition and intellectual awareness are [...] necessary for change. In dance therapy, the body and its movement are the prime tools that work toward that awareness and the unity of self” (Chaiklin, 1975: 703).

As one goes through the dance movement therapy process, they begin by finding a way to ground themselves, be present in the here and now. The starting point to a dance movement therapy session being the warm-up, it allows one to [re]center oneself, be attune with what is happening in one’s body prior to taking in what would be happening in one’s surroundings. The relationship with oneself impacts the relationship with our environment, likewise the environment impacts our perception of self.

Through Dance Movement Therapy we recognize the importance of movement in our lives. We acknowledge that through breath we move and interact with our surroundings; movement is our first connection with ourselves and with our environment. Additionally, we welcome a central connection to our body prior to engaging with others. Dance and movement can lead to powerful experiences and significant growth within the relationship we have with ourselves, which will then transform one’s external relationships. Dance Movement Therapy is not limiting, on the contrary, it is a physical, but also a psychological, emotional, and/or verbal endeavor. It considers all that has to do with existing in order to foster change, transformation, and healing.



Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.

Reduce Stress By Giving Children More Control


Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

As the new school year is upon us and our children are heading back to the classrooms amid the 4th wave of the pandemic, how are we tolerating stress? Children, regardless of age, need supportive adults in their lives to nurture and guide them through stressful circumstances and events; they also need to have a sense of control over their own lives.

Stress can be helpful or harmful.

The times when our brains are most vulnerable to stress are prenatal stress, early childhood, and adolescence, this is because brains only reach full maturity by age 25. Anxiety is most likely to develop in teens because they are more vulnerable to stress with fewer tools to cope.

Let’s look at 3 different types of stress:

Positive stress is short in duration. We may feel a slight increase in our heart rate and mild changes in the body’s stress hormones. This is normal everyday stress which serves to motivate children and adults to grow, take risks, and persevere.

Tolerable stress refers to stress responses that have the potential to negatively impact brain development. It generally occurs for short periods of time which allows for the brain to recover and reduce harmful effects. Some events may include an episode of being bullied, a serious illness, separation, divorce, or a death in the family. The presence of supportive adults is crucial to help children feel safe. Additionally, this type of stress can help build resilience.

Toxic stress refers to the frequent and prolonged activation of the body’s stress system. There is a recurrence of stressful events with little reprieve. Furthermore, there is the absence of support from caring adults who would protect and minimize a child’s exposure to harmful events that a child is not developmentally prepared to cope with. Extreme exposure can be witnessing an assault or abuse which occurs regularly. This is the most dangerous one for a child’s developing brain. Also, it damages their ability to thrive.

“A poorly controlled response to stress can be damaging to health and well-being if activated too often or for too long.”

Center on the Developing Child

Toxic stress is not healthy for us, at any age. However, certain times are worse than others and can have a great impact on healthy brain development when there is excessive or prolonged activation of the stress response systems. Moreover, if the body and brain are not given the proper time to recover, chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression. It can also lead to problematic behaviors such as binge or restricted eating, procrastination, sleep issues, and a lack of motivation to care for oneself.

Parenting styles play a role, how?

Let’s take a moment to reflect on how this may impact the way we parent our children.

The 3 main types of parenting styles are: Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive. (We may fluctuate between all 3).

With over 60 years of research in support of this parenting style, an authoritative parent coaches, guides, and supports their children while maintaining healthy boundaries, which is said to be the most effective parenting style, compared to authoritarian, permissive, ambivalent or uninvolved parenting styles.

This is the one we strive to be as an authoritative parents set high expectations while nurturing, are responsive, and involved.  Children raised by authoritative parents are more likely to have greater autonomy, be socially accepted, academically successful, and are generally well-behaved.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Parents can play a role in undue stress on their children when constantly battling over things like homework, expectations, and pressure to do well at school, social relationships with friends, and many extracurricular commitments. Chronic fighting is not healthy for families.

Give children more control and responsibility

Brains develop according to how it is used. When we give children opportunities to make decisions while they are young, helps the brain to develop, so that they can cope with stress as they become more resilient. Children need responsibilities now, not when we think they are old enough to handle it or when they are more mature.

Whose homework is it?

Many parents feel responsible to be on top of their children’s homework. The intentions are good as we want to see our children succeed. However, we may find ourselves doing the work or providing the answers, so there is not much learning happening, it becomes our homework.

I would like to propose a new approach to homework by handing over more control to your children so that homework becomes the child’s responsibility.

Now, this does not mean leaving them to their own devices and saying, “you’re on your own kid!”, the opposite is true. We remain present, supportive, and trust that they have what it takes. Trust begets more trust.

Practical tools to get the year off to a fresh start:

Be their coaches: Believe in your child’s ability to manage their own homework so that they can have the confidence to believe in themselves. We coach but must not force. The same principle applies to sports or other activities we want to enroll them in.

Connection over correction: Resist the temptation to say: “I told you so!” when they learn the consequences of not having done their work. Validate! Say: “I know how hard this is. If you need me, I am here for you”. Let them know that when mistakes happen, they are growth opportunities. Talk about your failures and struggles to do homework or when you would rather be out playing with friends. It is hard, we can empathize.

Offer support guidance:  Tell your child: “I love you too much to fight over your homework”. Instead of asking “what homework do you have tonight?”, ask: “Would you like my help tonight with any of the subjects you have for homework?”.

Build healthy habits: Children thrive on routines and structure. Teach them to eat healthy and to get enough sleep. Allow them to make choices to develop habits and routines that feel right for them. Lead by example in how we take care of ourselves, they are learning through observation.

Academic support: Children tend to do better when it is someone other than a parent to work with. However, there are different approaches to ensure their success. If they are struggling to master a subject, see about getting additional support from tutors or if their school has an after-school homework program with peers or older students. If they are strong students but struggle with time management, prioritizing assignments, or may have difficulties with executive functioning, then an academic coach to teach organizational and study skills.

To conclude, keep in mind that after a long day at school, coming home to many more hours of tutoring can have a negative impact. It is important to balance work and play.

Wishing all our students, parents and teachers a safe and wonderful school year.


National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper No. 3. Updated Edition. Retrieved from

Stixrud, W. R., & Johnson, N. (2019). The self-driven child: The science and sense of giving your kids more control over their lives. NY, NY: Penguin Books.

Children Developing a Sense of Humor

Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

Developing a Sense of Humor

There was no shortage of pranks in our home when my children were younger. April Fools’ Day was one of their favourite days for creating chaos, but they could strike at any time. A friend once gave them a gift of practical jokes, complete with supplies and a manual. Oh, the creative things kids will do! Cream cheese on my deodorant, walking into a film of saran wrap, whoopee cushions, Vaseline on the door handles, plastic flies in my coffee…more antics than I care to remember. Yet, it is the pure innocence of their laughter that I hold in my heart.

A sense of humor is not something we are born with, but actually a learned skill that children develop. Laughing together is a way to connect, and a good sense of humor can also help children cope with challenges.

Laughter is a joyful sound and is easily understood in any language. Having a good sense of humor helps kids emotionally and socially, plus, there are many more benefits. Research has shown that people who laugh more are healthier, less likely to be depressed and may even have an increased resistance to illness.

Meet them where they are at developmentally

Similar to how children meet their developmental milestones, a child’s sense of humor develops at different ages and stages of their development.

Babies do not yet understand humor but respond to facial expressions and funny noises. They will try to imitate your joy by smiling back and connecting. Simply making a funny face can bring out those big belly laughs.

Toddlers enjoy the element of surprise and physical humor like peek-a-boo or tickles. At this stage, they may want to make their parent/caregiver laugh by pointing to the wrong answer like “where are your ears?” and they touch their nose. They may also find it funny to imitate adults by wearing your shoes and trying to walk in them.

Preschoolers 3 to 4 year’s old tend to be very silly. They are very literal at this stage so if something is not right, they will find it extremely funny – like a dog that meows or the antics of their favourite cartoon character. Also, at this stage is when potty words and sounds are a crowd pleaser for this age. Around 5-6 years, they will start using their own creative ways of expressing humor and may tell endless jokes.

As they go through the elementary school years, humor is an important way to connect with their peers by telling jokes or trying to get others to laugh. At this stage, children begin to understand non-literal humor; they may find humor in teasing and understand sarcasm around 9-11 years old.

A good sense of humor is a tool that helps children:

  • engage in play and connect socially with others
  • foster creativity and a different way of thinking
  • to be spontaneous
  • not taking themselves or things too seriously
  • see things from another perspective

Setting boundaries while developing a sense of humor

While we want to encourage their development, we also need to teach children the boundaries when it comes to humor and teasing, just as we do in so many other areas. We want to discourage jokes which are offensive and hurt others. The best way to do this is to be a good role model and avoid using humor in this way. If someone tells a hurtful or inappropriate joke, we shouldn’t laugh but rather teach them by taking the time to explain to our children why that joke isn’t funny. Likewise, we want to quickly move in when there is a lot of bathroom talk, letting them know that saying those words or making those noises belong only in the bathroom. We are teaching them about the timing of jokes and that some places, like in class, at family or religious gatherings, are not appropriate places.

Ways to encourage humor in the home

Be their role model by telling jokes that are age appropriate, clean, and fun or tell funny stories. It is important to be authentic and laugh out loud. Share the enjoyment, even if you do not find it as funny as your child, let them know you appreciate why you see it is funny for them. One parenting pleasure is to watch your children grow and realize they have your same crazy sense of humor.

Create an environment that is fun. Watch comedies together or have a game night. One game that is sure to make children laugh is to see who can keep a straight face the longest without laughing. Books are also fun. Younger children will enjoy funny pictures or silly rhyme books while older children enjoy joke books, cartoons, or comics.

Humor is an early childhood developmental skill that we can easily encourage and enjoy while we are doing it!

Whichever ways you choose to bring humor into your home, it will create lasting family memories and joy for years to come. Our children will remember these joyful, funny moments and cherish the silly fun we had.

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

Self-esteem is a term used to describe our sense of worth and value. It is about how good we feel about ourselves. Promoting healthy self-esteem is one of the most important characteristics in a child’s development. Having positive self-esteem can also a be a protective factor for emotional well-being and mental health.

As children grow and mature, they develop their self-concept  which is their opinions about themselves; and includes their abilities, intelligence, and their personalities. During the preschool years, children discover they are individuals and develop a positive self-concept. In middle childhood, the self-concept goes through changes and becomes more defined and logical as their cognitive development increases, and they become more aware of their social environment.

Self-esteem in middle childhood:

During middle childhood (6 to 11 years), children start to compare themselves to others, allowing them to learn about who they are as individuals and how they can contribute to society. As children become more self-aware, they can be encouraged with praise for their process, rather than praising their person. Same applies to any successes such as academic or sports, the emphasis is on the activity, or how they learn and relate to others and not because they are smart or popular.

Children with positive self-esteem:

  • are more confident and independent
  • form healthy and secure relationships
  • are resilient
  • can take responsibility for their actions
  • make better decisions – even in the face of peer pressure

Children with negative self-esteem:

  • are more negative towards themselves and others
  • tend to give up more easily
  • have nervous habits
  • act out more often
  • are overly sensitive to how other’s may perceive them

Positive tips for promoting healthy self-esteem in children:

Love unconditionally

Love sets the foundation in all healthy and stable relationships. Children feel safe when we show them consistent love; it fosters a sense of security and is essential to how they will view themselves. Connect with them every day and give them your undivided attention, look and smile at them when they enter the room. Show physical affection: hug them when leaving to do your day, cuddle together when reading stories or watching T.V., making sure to love as an action while also telling our children that they are loved. As they grow, they will take the love they receive and carry it towards building their own social network by making friends and being a team player.


Give children responsibilities

Everyone needs to feel like they are contributing members of society and what better way then to experience this in our own families first. Teaching responsibilities through developmentally and age-appropriate chores promotes purpose and allows children to experience a sense of accomplishment, while giving them a sense of control over their own lives. They may not do it perfectly or as well as well as we can, so it is important to encourage the process and thank them for helping out by taking care of the family and helping make things easier. We are more efficient working together and Sunday morning cleaning can turn into a fun routine that is rewarded with a beautiful brunch or fun activity.

Turn mistakes into learning opportunities

Children will make mistakes and they will fail. These life lessons teach children to accept responsibility for their actions and learn to express remorse if they hurt another person, it also teaches empathy. When they fail at something (a test, making the team) they are learning about disappointment and how to tolerate frustrations. Failure is a stepping-stone in the learning process. Allowing children to experience failure also builds resilience and perseverance to study harder and learn from their mistakes.

Positive discipline

When we see behaviors that need to change, our responsibility as parents is to guide and teach our children. Discipline methods that are severe may have the child fear a parent’s disapproval while withdrawing love and affection when they need it most. If we show conditional love to children, they will behave to show themselves worthy of parental approval, where the emphasis is now on the behavior, rather than the value of the child. It is so easy to love someone when they are loveable but love in action recognizes the person while consequences are directed towards the behaviors. Discipline means teaching, an opportunity to learn from mistakes. We want to protect a child’s self-esteem by not humiliating or shaming them, personally or publicly.

Take care of yourself

Parenting is wonderful and can also be challenging. We tend to neglect our own needs to make sure our children receive the very best we can offer. Only, this may have the reverse effect if we neglect ourselves. The core of positive self-esteem is feeling good about oneself. If we are not feeling good, it becomes difficult to model for our children. Take at least 30 minutes each day to do something that will make you feel good: read, go for a walk, listen to music, organize a closet, or coffee with a good friend. When we are not feeling good about ourselves, we may withdraw and less present to be able to connect with our children.

Ultimately, we need to accept each child for who they are as a person, not defining them by the behaviors we would want to see changed. If your child is showing signs of low self-esteem, begin by building them up daily with unconditional love. It is the most essential ingredient to the emotional health and positive self-worth of our children.

Mental Health Impacts Us All


Article  By Stephanie Paquette, Clinical Social Worker at Openspaceclinic.

As a clinical social worker, my clients grant me intimate access to the stories that have shaped their mental health trajectories.  Although the circumstances impacting their mental health vary, the themes weaving their narratives together, are similar. For example, the search for perfection and the feeling of never being good enough, the desire for trust and safety in relationships, and the need for choice, validation and acknowledgement from parents and intimate partner, are common experiences. 

When difficult circumstances arise, or when genetics and/or trauma impacts us, our worldview may shift, and our mental health may be negatively impacted. As citizens in our communities, we tend to differentiate and dissociate from other humans. Yet mental health does not differentiate, mental health unites us. Regardless of class, gender, culture, religious or socio-economic status, you cannot run-away from your mental health. When you ignore, reject, or disconnect from your mental state, it will show up in patterns of relating and communicating, in moments of difficulty or stress, and it reminds you, sometimes frighteningly so, of your vulnerabilities. Acknowledging when you need help to navigate your difficulties is a sign of strength and resilience. In doing so, you are allowing a mental health professional to help guide you and offering yourself the gift of healing.

Psychologist Lew Lewis Begins His Second Career




After a remarkable 53 year career in public education, including 47 years working out of 6000 Fielding Avenue for the English Montreal School Board and the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, Lew Lewis announced his retirement as Director of Student Services over a year ago. But now he has decided to go into private practice with Openspace Clinic, situated at 4115 Sherbrooke St. W., a little east of Greene Avenue in Westmount. Lew is very excited about entering a new phase of his professional life by joining Openspace Clinic which he describes a wonderful and diverse group of talented clinicians and wellness professionals. The primary focus of Lew’s professional practice will be working with older adolescents and adults with challenges related to anxiety, depression, self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, life transitions, workplace issues, and stress management. Having known Lew for over 20 years, I can best describe him as a very warm, caring, and empathetic individual as well as an extremely insightful and supportive professional, widely respected by friends and colleagues alike! Lew can be reached at or at 514-833-9886.





Leptin and its Role in Weight Loss

Article  By Rosemarie Cianci, dietetics student in McGill’s School of Human Nutrition

There is a lot of talk about hormones and their role in weight loss. Leptin is one of those, so we’ll dive right in!

What is it?

Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by fat cells when you eat certain foods and regulates hunger and fullness cues. It reacts to your body’s insulin following the intake of food items. From there, it provides information to the brain about nutrition status. It regulates body weight by decreasing food intake and increasing energy expenditure. It makes you feel full and also allows the body to burn more calories!

What does it do?

Certain foods stimulate the release of leptin more than others. For example, consuming sugars such as sucrose and glucose will cause insulin levels to increase and leptin to be released. However, fructose, which is often found in the form of high fructose corn syrup, does not trigger the release of leptin. Therefore, when you drink foods that are high in HFCS, such as candy and soft drinks, leptin is not released and the body does not receive the signals to decrease food intake. You end up eating more!

What is leptin resistance?

Leptin resistance occurs when the body does not respond to levels of leptin and does not signal fullness. This often occurs in those who are overweight or obese as they have more fat cells and therefore produce more leptin. Despite the high production, the brain does not receive the signal from leptin and it is blocked.

Leptin resistance and the lack of regulation may explain why some people have a more difficult time losing weight than others. Their brain may not be receiving the signals of fullness and increased energy burning compared to others!

Can it be supplemented?

The current recommendation is that taking a leptin supplement is not effective when compared to the body’s production. For those who have resistance, even supplements of leptin will not work because their brain does not receive signals from the hormone in any way, whether by pill or from the body’s production.

However, more studies are currently being undergone in this field and this is something that may be on the horizon. A review from 2019 showed that leptin’s mechanism of action is still being discovered and this can hopefully improve the efficacy of leptin as a treatment of obesity.

Overall, there is currently not enough research to note that leptin supplements are safe and effective for weight loss. However, since fructose blocks the production of leptin, it may be a beneficial idea to limit sources of the sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup-containing foods such as candy and soft drinks.




Is it normal that my toddler is a fussy eater?

Article by Danielle Kasis Akal, Professional Dietetic Stagiare, McGill’s School of Human Nutrition. 

Fussy eating is a very normal childhood phase. There are all sorts of reasons why children of any age might decide they won't eat what you just offered. Although sometimes the reason behind fussy eating can be complex, most often than not, the reasons behind food fussiness are typical and not something to seriously worry about.


Why is my child a fussy eater?

You might have noticed that your child was selective in eating since weaning, or it might be that your child enthusiastically ate new food after weaning and only had developed eating problems between their first and second birthdays.

The main reason for that could be neophobia or the fear of new food. Neophobia is an evolutionary technique where babies develop a suspicion for strange food allowing their ancestors to stay away from anything poisonous. What's good about that is neophobic tendencies tend to phase out with time.

Toddlers also start to develop memories and know well that each meal is not their last. So, they quickly learn that better snacks might be around the corner and that they might be offered something nicer than what's on their plate right now. If the better snack is not at home with you, it is probably at their grandmother's house or in preschool with their toddler friends.

Through the process of refusing food, your child might also be exerting his own sense of self by making his own decision. When children are old enough to understand the joys of independence, they are so keen to put it into practice and exercise what little power they have over the adults around them.


Is my child trying to tell me something?

Occasionally, a child's refusal to eat may indicate an emotional problem. You might need to figure out if anything else is troubling them. For example, a gradual or even sudden decrease in appetite might indicate something is bothering your child. Usually, it might be related to a new life event like a new baby, new home or new school.

Some medical factors can also play a role in a low appetite or selective eating tendencies. For instance, zinc deficiency, food allergy or intolerance, constipation, nausea, anemia, or toxic metals accumulation might need to be ruled out by a health professional before making assumptions that your child is a fussy eater. To help with that, you can consult a qualified nutritionist to run the appropriate tests and make proper changes to your little one's diet.

When dealing with a fussy eater, remember those words: Exposure, Model and Avoid rewarding.



Given the impact of familiarity on children's eating patterns, regularly exposing your little one to a wide variety of meals and flavours is likely to result in healthier eating habits. Your child’s experience with different tastes can improve acceptance from an early age (even before birth!), according to a growing number of researches. In fact, exposure is specifically helpful in increasing your toddler's vegetable consumption.



According to a recent poll, the strongest predictor of children's intake of fruits and vegetables depended on their parents' consumption of those food groups. One might think that meals accessible in the house, in general, is likely the contributing factor to this. However, we tend to forget children's desire to copy the behaviour of others. Seeing what you are eating may change your toddler's preference for that food. If not, it can also increase your baby's chance to consume that food, which increases liking through taste exposure.


Avoid rewarding:

You may have tried bribing with reward foods, and you might have noticed that it often achieves the very opposite of what you intended it to do. You are right; rewarding does not work! It has been consistently shown that reward increases food fussiness, making your little one more resistant to try new food. Next time try to keep meals relaxed and reward-free as it will go a long way to help your child develop a more positive relationship with food.

Will it always be that way? 

The good news is that most children will grow out of fussy eating at some point before reaching adulthood. You will notice once your children start school, they will have a more varied diet. Their diet change will be influenced by what their peers are eating and their ability to make their own choices about food. So, a fussy eater toddler won't automatically become a picky eater adult, especially if they received the proper response from people bringing them up.



Dovey, T. M., Staples, P. A., Gibson, E. L., & Halford, J. C. (2008). Food neophobia and ‘picky/fussy’eating in children: a review. Appetite, 50(2-3), 181-193.

Levene, I. R., & Williams, A. (2018). Fifteen-minute consultation: The healthy child:“My child is a fussy eater!”. Archives of Disease in Childhood-Education and Practice, 103(2), 71-78.

Mallan, K. M., Jansen, E., Harris, H., Llewellyn, C., Fildes, A., & Daniels, L. A. (2018). Feeding a fussy eater: examining longitudinal bidirectional relationships between child fussy eating and maternal feeding practices. Journal of pediatric psychology, 43(10), 1138-1146.

Taylor, C. M., & Emmett, P. M. (2019). Picky eating in children: Causes and consequences. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 78(2), 161-169.

Westrom, S., & Hilliard, E. (2021). Picky Eating as a Degree instead of Binary Choice. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 121(9), A59.

Get in their heads - Help your kids reframe the thoughts that hold them back


Article by Jill Shein, Psychologist at Openspaceclinic. 

As parents, we know that belief in self is one of the most important qualities to nurture in our children. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try to build them up, our kids may have a different talk track in their own minds…


 The problem

 A child can bring themselves down when they tell themselves things like, 

 “I’m not smart enough”… “I’m not pretty enough”… or, “I’m just not good enough”

 And they might not always tell you exactly what they’re thinking. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t want to worry you. Other times, it may be because they feel embarrassed or ashamed by how they’re feeling about themselves. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

 The silver lining of this pandemic is that we are probably more attuned to kids now than we’ve ever been, having spent more time together of late out of necessity. It’s an instinct to notice a change in your child’s mood or personality, or changes in their behavior.

 For instance, maybe you’ve noticed your child is coming home from school more tense, gloomy, or more sensitive about little things that they normally wouldn’t react to. You might have a super-studious kid who suddenly rejects their homework. Your younger child may simply withdraw, or stop engaging in activities they usually find enjoyable.


How you can help


1. Inquire

The first thing you can do is simply notice and ask them what’s up.

“Hey sweetheart, I’ve noticed you seem a little down lately… what’s on your mind?”

“We all hear our own voice inside our head- what’s yours telling you lately?”  


2. Validate

Explain to your child that having feelings of doubt from time to time is a normal part of growing up. This is a really important step that many of us forget to take. We may rush into solution mode because we want to make them feel better, and immediately try to talk them out of that negative thought. This can be counterproductive. Instead, slow down… be sure to acknowledge where they’re at first. Reflect the essence of what you hear them saying.

 “We all have moments when we feel less-than sometimes…”

“Sounds like it feels pretty awful when you tell yourself that you don’t measure up…”


3. Change the frame:

Now that they’ve articulated the problem, and they feel heard and understood, you have an opening to help them shift their perspective. Ask your child how they’d like to feel, and get them to focus on the things they like about themselves- their unique qualities, skills and talents. Every child has at least a few positive traits or capabilities that they genuinely believe about themselves.

 “How do you want to feel about yourself?”

 “Let’s try something… can you write down three things you’re most proud of when you think about yourself?”

 Or, if they’re struggling to come up with an answer,

 “Let’s pretend one of your closest friends had to make a speech about you on your birthday. What nice things would they say about you?”  

 This exercise will help boost their confidence, especially if you ask them to re-read the list daily. They will learn to focus on what they do well, rather than on their shortcomings.

 “So maybe I’m not the best basketball player… but I’m a really fast runner!”

“I might not get the best grades in math, but I’m a terrific reader and storyteller”.

“I am a really great friend and people like to be around me”.


If your child won’t open up, or if the thoughts they’re harboring seem to be crippling them academically or socially, it might be time to seek some counseling. A trained therapist can help your child challenge the negative, self-defeating thoughts they’re entertaining and help them develop new ways of thinking about themselves and their environment. 


Remember: When you change your thoughts, you change your life.