#59 - When Your Spouse Doesn't Agree About Your Child's Sensory or Feeding Challenges

Feb 12, 2024
#59 - When Your Spouse Doesn't Agree About Your Child's Sensory or Feeding Challenges


“It’s just a phase”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing”

“They’re fine when they’re with me”

“I had the same issues as a kid, and I just turned out fine”

Do any of these sound familiar? These are all things your spouse might say if they’re not quite on the same page as you about sensory processing and feeding concerns. 

This is a situation I encounter quite often. In fact, those quotes came from what parents have said in OT or feeding sessions with me.

Essnetially, one parent is clearly feeling like there is something more going on with their child that is being missed and wants to get support, while the other parent might downplay or dismiss those very same signs.

This disagreement not only affects your relationship with your partner, but it also hinders your child’s progress, because you can’t agree on which direction to go in. So you just keep on the same hamster wheel day in and day out.

In fact, whenever I do a launch of one of my programs, I have at least 1-2 parents reach out to me and say: “I really want to join, but my partner doesn’t agree that our child has sensory or eating challenges, and I don’t know what to do.”

So for today’s episode, I want to dive into this a bit together, and discuss how we can bridge that gap, by taking both parent’s perspectives, and working together as a team to take steps forward. 

For those of you are newer to me, let’s start by what exactly I mean by eating & sensory challenges:

  1. Eating challenges - this is when a child is struggling to eat enough or enough variety of foods. This might look like:
    1. Eating less than 20 different foods
    2. Challenges eating foods with certain textures
    3. Having to eat totally different foods than the rest of the family
    4. Refusing to eat certain food groups
    5. Gags or vomits when touching, smelling, or tasting food
    6. Extreme fights when their are new foods on their plate, etc.

  2. Sensory challenges - when a child is struggling with daily activities or making it through the day because their sensory needs and sensory preferences are not matching up with the demands of a task or the demands of our world. For example, this might present as:
    1. Meltdowns
    2. Challenges wearing certain clothing
    3. Dislike of getting dirty
    4. Being unaware of messes or getting dirty
    5. Being easily upset by sounds
    6. Hitting/throwing/biting
    7. Lots of crashing
    8. Lots of energy, and a hard time sitting still
    9. Challenges with posture and balance
    10. Coordination issues
    11. And so so so much more 

The Power of Education

Now, it's crucial to ask: Does your partner truly understand what you mean when you express concerns about your child's sensory or feeding issues? Often, we expect our partners to fully understand the situation after brief conversations, but they may not have the same exposure to information and experiences as we do.

In fact, I do this with J.R. all the time. I am one of those people who has a hard time making decisions, and I really like to get his support before I go forward and buy a program or make a big change. So I’ll look into something, do a ton of research, know in my gut that I really want to do it…and then I’ll kind of tell him about it in 1-2 sentences and drop the price on him.

Naturally, he doesn’t know that much about it yet, and will answer something like “that seems like a waste of money,” or “are you sure you need that?” And I’m instantly annoyed. But over the years I’ve noticed that when I start to tell him about something from the beginning, and learn about it with him - he’s so much more open to the idea and is usually on the same page as me by the end.

Consider this: You've likely spent countless hours researching and learning about your child's challenges, while your partner hasn’t. They also may not witness the day-to-day struggles or have the same level of concern.

There’s typically one parent, who is in charge of the child’s day-to-day tasks and therefore spends more time with them. This is the parent who is feeding the child every snack and meal, the one trying to get them dressed for school, and the one experiencing more of the meltdowns.

And because they’re the one struggling through these routines every day…they’re also the one who starts to do the research. Who is spending each night up on Google, and following all the social media pages to get as much help as possible.

And through this process, you’re learning, and beginning to view your child in a different way. But most of the time - the other partner hasn’t done that. They haven’t seen all the different articles, research, and videos you have. They haven’t participated in the Facebook groups where you’ve chatted with other parents. 


It’s essential to understand that because of this, they likely don’t have the same opinion or understanding of sensory and feeding challenges as you do.   

Instead of expecting our partner to just be on the same page because we’re telling them we think there’s an issue, we need to help them come to their own conclusions by providing them with the same knowledge and education about sensory & feeding challenges.


So when you find a piece of education you really relate to - SAVE IT, and show it to your partner! Start small with something like reels or instagram posts, and as they become more open to the idea then present things like articles, videos, and research.

Personally, I always prefer that you show the education to your spouse instead of trying to explain it. Because if you’re just starting to learn about sensory & feeding, it’s hard to articulate and accurately describe the education to someone else. This way, they’re getting the education right from the source.

But what if they don’t think there’s any problem in the first place?

This is where I believe that an open line of communication with your spouse is essential. Just like you need to understand their viewpoint, they need to understand your viewpoint.

Instead of just explaining to your partner that “i’m exhausted” “you don’t get it” “you’re not there to see it…” show them about what is truly occurring on a day-to-day basis.

I highly recommend taking 1-2 weeks and recording what is going on either on paper or on the notes app on your phone.

For example, write down that:

  • On Monday, it took us 35 minutes to put on shoes and get out the door, because the shoes felt “funny” and they couldn’t keep it on their feet
  • On Tuesday, we had 3 meltdowns lasting over one hour, where your child threw books at the wall and hit you.
  • On Wednesday, you got into a total fight over homework and they threw it on the ground because you tried to correct their pencil grasp

Parenting is such an emotional process, that often when you try to talk to your partner about the issues you’re experiencing, it doesn’t come out how you hope it will.

So I like using real, tangible examples of what exactly is going on, especially if they are not there to see it happening as often as you are. This clues them into what you are actually experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

Now - there’s one myth I want to squash right here, because I know it’s going to be a question. “What if my spouse says that it’s just because I’m “too easy” on them, and I need to discipline them more?”

This is SO common. One huge rift between parents is that a sensational child will actually act differently with one versus the other.


So I’d like to introduce a phenomenon called masking. Masking is essentially when sensational children cover up and conceal their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors for a period of time. Essentially they hold it together when they are with one parent, and then let it all out when they get back to the other parent. Unfortunately, this can make one parent feel like there’s nothing going in, when there really is. Again, this is why I think it’s so important to document what you’re experiencing, so you can bring it to your partner and truly show them what you are experiencing vs what they are experiencing.

Further, masking is extremely stressful for a child and energy consuming. It can’t last forever. Imagine going to do something that makes you uncomfortable, and pretending to be fine about it until you leave. When you leave, you just feel completely drained and exhausted.

But I think one of the most important steps is to really sit down with your partner and have an open discussion. Let them know what you’re experiencing. Ask them where they see challenges. Remember, it’s an open line of communication both ways, so try to understand their viewpoint as well and where they are coming from too. Is there an area that you both notice is a challenge where you can start first? Ask if they’d be open to exploring some different options and solutions with you.

Progress Isn’t Immediate


Now another big area of concern is not “wanting to try another thing that doesn’t work.” I think it’s extremely important to point out here that progress with sensory and feeding is frustratingly slow. It’s not going to be an immediate switch or change. Instead, it’s important for both parents to realize that you are starting a journey to better understand your child’s body and mind. Knowing this from the start will set you up for success down the road, because instead of jumping to “this isn’t working” and giving up, you use those tough moments as a way to learn more about what your child’s body needs.

Wondering where to start?

Don't forget to grab this week's freebie, Resources to Share with Your Spouse. 

If you’re leaving this episode feeling super motivated, and wanting to start educating your spouse about sensory challenges, I highly recommend starting with my Understanding Sensory Challenges mini-course. It’s only 35-minutes, and you guys can sit down and watch it together with a glass of wine in one short night.

This is going to give you and your partner such a great understanding of what the different kinds of sensory challenges look like and how they present.

Whenever I talk to a parent after this course, they tell me they feel like I was “describing their child…” and that’s such a powerful way for you and your spouse  to get on the same page. To check out that course all you have to do is go to www.drsamgoldman.com/understandingsensorychallenges

I would absolutely LOVE to know what you thought of this episode? Did you find it helpful? Were you able to sit down and have a productive chat with your spouse? Come over to @DrSamGoldman on Instagram and send me a little DM with your thoughts on this episode!

And I can’t wait to see you inside of Understanding Sensory Challenges, to help you and your spouse take steps forward together. 

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