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Common Barriers to Change

The perceived barriers that may obstruct the motivation to make dietary behavior changes in low-income parents of young children are somewhat unique from other families. It is important that educators and paraprofessionals understand these potential barriers and learn ways to support clientele through them. Below are some barriers that have been documented in focus groups with parents.

  • Making changes to my own dietary behaviors.

o   There are some behaviors that parents like to engage in themselves and find it hard to give up. Eating fast food and drinking soda are two common ones.

  • Managing challenges from other adults in the family.

o   Making changes to a child’s diet often means making changes to the way the entire family eats. And everyone may not be supportive of these changes.

  • Managing challenges from my child.

o   Making changes to children’s preferred foods will almost always result in challenges and protests. Setting rules and limits can be difficult for some parents. Taking away something enjoyable for the child can also be emotionally difficult for some parents. Child protests to engage in the change can also make parents feel like they have wasted time and money when children don’t eat the food.

  • Limited time and resources.

o   Low-income parents commonly identify cost of healthy foods and time to prepare meals as barriers to making changes. Parents limited on time and money rely on fast food due to ease of access, affordability and likelihood that children will eat it, thus not wasting their money.

  • Emotional difficulty with denying food when hungry.

o   It is common for low-income parents to have memories of growing up with limited resources themselves. They may even remember feeling hunger and not having access to food. These memories can influence their values and motivations as parents of their own children. For instance, they may feel that letting their child feel hunger is something only bad parents do. As a result, denying children food when they say they are hungry can negatively impact their confidence in themselves as parents.