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After a choking scare, my daughter is afraid to eat
Q: My 4½-year-old daughter was choking on a piece of steak and I did the Heimlich Maneuver on her. Fortunately, the steak came out, but now my daughter is afraid to eat. She takes a bite of food, even soft food, and puts it in a tissue. I told her that I understand how she feels, and that I would only give her foods that are OK for kids to eat. What else can I do to ease her fears?
Fran Nutley
A: First, let me congratulate you for learning the Heimlich Maneuver. You no doubt saved your daughter’s life.

Second, I think your attempt to subdue her fear is right on. The experience was traumatic for her, so it’s going to take time for her anxiety to subside—maybe months. Still, try not to worry, as she will again eat in a normal way.

With time, she’ll begin to feel confident about eating foods that require some chewing. For now, reassure your daughter that her worries will go away and that, once again, she will be able to eat whatever she wants. It is important for parents to communicate that this is just a temporary feeling, and it happens to kids when they get scared.

For now, continue to try soft foods, like pasta and macaroni and cheese, while having more chewable foods on the table. You’re doing a great job, Fran, so just relax.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist