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xxtammixx
xxtammixx asks:
Q:

My nephew is more than just a picky eater. HELP!!

I am posting this on behalf of my very distressed sister. Her son eats hardly anything. He is very skinny but I'm sure he is not starving.
Not only is he a picky eater, everything has to be completely unblemished. Cannot have touched anything else which might discolour it. He eats almost only white food. Is this normal? Or is there perhaps a psychological issue underlying there?
Thanks.
In Topics: My picky eater
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Hand in Hand
Mar 20, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear xxtrammixx:

Good for you for reaching out on behalf of your nephew and your sister. It's so important that they both have you as their ally and advocate!

In my experience, fears that have attached to certain foods, or to the look and smell of certain foods, are not necessarily related to foods. The symptom of the fear--the strong aversion to certain foods--is so riveting and concerning that the aversion gets all of the parent's attention and worry, while the underlying fear goes untouched, so the aversion doesn't move. You can't pour honey on a fear, or dress it up, or talk a child out of it. A fear is a feeling, and no logic or trick can pry a feeling out of a child.

What can get a feeling moving so that the child has some room to change his behavior and be open to new things is this strategy:

First, give him Special Time often. Time, spent with the parent offering closeness and attention, to do just what he wants to do. Special Time is limited by a timer that ticks until his Special Time is over. The parent doesn't advise, doesn't teach, doesn't say what will be played or how it will be played. The parent follows the child's lead, and offers warmth and extra eye contact during the Special Time. Once a day would be great.

What Special Time does is to "warm up" the child's sense of support and closeness to his parent. If he's going to face some fears and come through that more confidently, he needs the direct, warm attention of his parent. You, as his aunt, could also offer Special Time. Be delighted. And when it's over, give him a big hug and tell him when the next time will be.

Often, at the end of Special Time, a child will find a way to be upset. Maybe he won't want Special Time to end. Maybe he only wants to sit in THIS chair, not THAT chair for dinner. Maybe one food touched another food, and this upsets him. Allow the upset. When children cry and tantrum, they are doing something highly worthwhile! It's hard to comprehend because we've been told otherwise for so many years, but crying and tantrums are a release valve for fear and upset! Move close, and do what we call Staylistening. Stay, listen, don't try to argue or be reasonable. The unreasonable feelings are pouring out. This is healthy. This will help him, if you can pour in your caring and your support as he cries. You don't have to say much. It will help him immensely if you can show that you don't think the sky will fall because Special Time is over, or because someone else sat in THIS chair that he wants, or because the peas touched his potatoes.

There's more about all this in an article that outlines this intervention more fully: here is Getting Beyond "Yuck!" with your Picky Eater, Parts 1 and 2, and below, our website with more information about Special Time and Staylistening.

One last idea: in these articles, I describe a game that works great with picky eaters. You pretend, with great flourish, to be a picky eater. You examine your food, make faces and noises, hold it up and drop it back on your plate, and go "Eeeewwwww!" with a twinkle in your eye. The laughter that ensues will also help him release some of that fear and aversion...it's a process, but it works!

Have an interesting time with these ideas! He's lucky to have you looking out for him, as is your sister!
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Additional Answers (3)

the professor
the professor writes:
i guess we have the same problem here.. my nephew eats rice only with Milo every meal and very sometimes(seldom actually), fried egg,...dunno if it has something to do with his psychology but he's been like that even before his parents broke up.
> 60 days ago

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ilovechefwilliam
ilovechefwi... , Teacher, Caregiver writes:
As a teacher for children with autism we have lots of food aversions.  Most of the time it is very sensory based (not saying your nephew has autism at all.. just saying that I have seen it)  A great book that can help with this is by Lori Ernsperger called Just Take a Bite.  I know of many people that have used it (both for special needs students and normally developing students)  Good Luck!

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LouiseSattler
LouiseSattler , Child Professional writes:
I think that many of my fellow "posters" have great responses.  However, you may wish to have your nephew consult with an allergist.  There are circumstances in which a child may associate an "upset tummy" with the foods they just ate.  Thus, they create an aversion to these foods.  In some cases it can be due to allergies, such as milk or egg products.  The child can't describe fully why he won't eat the food and simply avoids a particular food and all that are similar.  

I know of children who refused all milk products and things that came with milk products ( such as cereals with milk ,etc).  Once tested for allergies and found to have an allergic response they were able to offer the child foods that were healthy but were not associated to the offending foods.  

However, it is quite possible that the reason for the aversion has nothing to do with allergies and possibly sensory or other issues.

Good luck.
> 60 days ago

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