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Hello,

 

I really need some advice. I hope it is ok for me to post this as I am mentioning no names, I have a child in my class who has been very nervy and lacking in self confidence since starting in september. Over the term we have built their confidence and they now come to school every morning with a smile - however as soon as lunch time comes thats it; its gone, we have tears after tears after tears and they scream that they feel sick.

 

I have spoken to them and comforted them and they say they dont like the noise in the hall so we agreed with their guardian 6 weeks ago to let them eat dinner in the classroom with an adult so there was no noise - however they are still refusing to eat and sob and sob, so much so they are now making themselves sick so they dont have to eat. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

 

I have referred them to the school nurse - but I am finding it really hard to cope with as they aren't socialising at lunchtimes, it is affecting other children and the child cries all afternoon from then on and so their learning is being affected.

 

Any suggestions would be appreciated! :)

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Hi there,

 

I had similar to this in a previos school I worked at, the child was not a big eater even at home. He hated the noice levels in the hall I used to sit with him in the classroom then we moved into the hall and he still cried then his brother would sit with him. I felt so bad everyday leaving him but was advised to just explain to him that I had to go and would be back soon. im sure you have used every reward goind etc. About 3 month later he was eating in the dinner hall sat with his friends fine!! I couldnt belive it and I wasnt one to give up on him but after the advice I had I was so fed up, I just thought id give it ago. i just began to ignore the crying speaking to him like the tears were not there etc. I did what I would normally do with other children part of the rouitines of lunchtime, but I did give him a warning the day before this......I wont be coming in to the dinner hall with you tomorrow, Your going to do it all on your own and you will make me very proud if you can eat some of your dinner with no tears.(also lunchtme supervisor have to ignore too) He still cried for weeks but then just stopped. Im not saying this will work for all children. But I suppose sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind. (also check with parent that they are happy for you to do it)

 

Hope this helps

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Could the child go home for lunch or continue to attend part-time until they are more ready to cope?

 

I am sure that if you ignore the tears long enough this child will realise that they get no response but I'm not sure what that does in terms of the child's emotional well-being in the long term.

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Could the child go home for lunch or continue to attend part-time until they are more ready to cope?

 

I am sure that if you ignore the tears long enough this child will realise that they get no response but I'm not sure what that does in terms of the child's emotional well-being in the long term.

 

 

hello thankyou for your quick replies,

 

they cannot go part time as they are 5 now and so must be in school,a and there is no one to have them at home for lunch. We had been advised by the home school link worker to be tough on them (tough love) as it were but this is not working they are getting worse and worse.

 

I feel absolutely terrible every day - as i have a duty of care to make them eat something, they have no breakfast and no snack either so i feel they must eat something at lunch!

 

Em x

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What type of food are they being asked to eat? Is it a hot school lunch or are they bringing in food from home? I would be inclined to sit in the class room for a while longer, with their food from home, if that's possible, have that on the table, unopened and talk or read a book to them to get them as relaxed as possible, when it comes to saying shall we eat a little something, let them be the judge of what and agree how much, we often ask how old they are, and say, 3 or 4 and we say o.k. 3 bites, this often works, we negotiate that and then give huge amount of praise and say o.k. you can go and play now, very soon they begin to eat more, sometimes this isn't huge amounts, but as the saying goes, no child will starve themselves, as long as they are drinking throughout the day I would be happy.

 

The child's care giver should really be helping you more with this I feel. Does the care giver tell you they only eat once a day or only certain foods, how do you know they don't have breakfast of some sort?

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I'd be inclined to leave lunch completely for now, its obviously a massive ordeal for one reason or another. I presume you have morning and afternoon snack. If so I'd make those occasions relaxed with this child knowing when snack starts and finishes but with no expectation that he takes part. At lunch time I'd tell the whole class to collect their lunch and go to the hall, but I wouldnt tell this child to open his lunch box, or make any fuss at all.

You need to know his eating habits at home too. Does he eat breakfast, does he eat at the table or is he allowed to wander around, does he eat well the rest of the time? As adults we can choose when we eat and drink and understand if we dont eat now we'll have to wait till much later. Children are told when they should eat and it might not suit him but he might also not understand why he should.

I really wouldnt push him to eat.

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I would definitely not try to make a child eat anything ever. It's a battle that the adult never wins in the long term.

 

I'm not sure what the theory behind the tough love is. Clearly this child is very distressed and nobody has an appetite when they feel like that.

 

I agree with taking the pressure off completely and working hard on building this child's confidence in you. Do you have a den or cosy corner you could sit in together? This could help the child to feel more secure and relaxed. You could share some books and chat about things that interest them without pushing the food issue. You could take your own food in there to eat and perhaps after a while the child will decide to join you in eating.

 

Could the child bring in a blanket which smells of home or a top worn by the primary carer? This might give enough comfort for the child to settle a little.

 

Another idea could be to let the child watch a DVD for a short while. This works well for my daughter who becomes very stressed at school. She uses an iPod which gives her the opportunity to escape for a short while and have a break from the anxiety.

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I once had a child who refused to eat as she thought she was fat, she was only 4!

Anyway we spoke to the Ed Psych (as we were part of a childrens centre so it was easy), she advised to just ignore all the "i don't want to eat" etc etc and just give plenty of praise to the children who were eating "oh Billy it looks as though you are enjoying that, "Grace you are eating that lovely, "Well done Jane, you've done well", that kind of thing; after a while it worked and she started eating

 

I dont know if this will work in your case, but if all else fails etc etc

 

Good luck!!

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I would agree with some of the others here. I think you need to put the whole issue of eating aside for now. Try having him in the classroom with a friend and an adult. The friend obviously eats their lunch and perhaps the adult but don't comment to the child at all or suggest he eats. Make sure he sits with you and the friend (table, floor, cosy corner) until they have finished but don't even suggest he eats anything. If he's on packed lunches have it there and open but make sure he knows it's his choice to eat. If he's on school dinners I'd suggest he maybe needs to change to a packed lunch anyway.

 

You mention he has no breakfast or snack. What about other meals at home? Does he eat lunch at the weekends? Does he look nourished and healthy? Maybe you could talk to his parents about these things. If he's like this at home or has a very limited diet and refuses to eat all but a few unhealthy things then that is definitely a bigger cause for concern.

 

Finally he said he doesn't like the noise in the dinner hall, have you asked him why he still cries in the classroom?

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