Children Who Don’t Want to Eat

There are several explanations for food aversions in post-institutionalized and fostered children:

How do food aversions manifest?

Kids typically can’t verbalize why they act as they do around food. Instead, their food aversions will be expressed through behavior: Refusing to eat, avoiding certain foods, wanting to eat the same food over and over again, gagging, throwing up, or developing rituals around food (e.g., only eating from a certain yellow bowl or drinking apple juice from a juice box but not from a cup).

What to do?

First, rule out motor, medical, and dental abnormalities that can contribute to poor eating such as decayed teeth, sore gums, reflux, cough, allergies, enlarged tonsils, digestive problems, and parasites.

Do NOT force your child to eat under any circumstances. Though pumping good nutrition into your child should be a top priority post-adoption, it should not come at the expense of reinforcing your child’s negative relationship with food. No matter how pressured you feel to get those critical nutrients into her growing body, remember that what she eats is less important than how she’ll feel about food for the rest of her life.

“Don’t force your child to eat everything in front of them. Also, give them lots of choices in small quantities.” -Bruce, dad to Aida adopted from Kazakhstan

Developing a taste for food

A gradual approach to introducing textures and tastes allows kids space to process new foods, and is also the safest way to monitor possible allergic reactions.

It often takes as many as 10-15 introductions to a new food before a child will eat it.

Sit at the table together for family mealtimes as often as possible.

Use “taste plates” or “no thank you plates.”

Increase your child’s appetite.

Generally, kids are more likely to eat if they are hungry. Try these techniques to increase their appetite:

Hold the praise.

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