Eating to Improve Focus, Attention, and Concentration

There are lots of reasons why a child might have trouble focusing – there are so many possible internal and external challenges. Some children’s brains have a very low tolerance for boredom; for these kids focus is hard to attain unless they are engaged in an activity that holds their interest. Some kids have such active minds that everything seems to grab their attention, viagra making it hard for them to zero in one on just one thing. Teens are particularly prone to self-induced fatigue (from staying up too late) which makes focused attention hard for them. Moreover, health in today’s world of beeping, bleeping toys and tools, everyone seems to have a harder time focusing.

No matter why a child is having trouble focusing. dietary changes may help. Consider the following tips:

Certain Foods Contribute to Inattention
Many studies associate sugar consumption with symptoms of restlessness and inattention. Different children have different levels of reactivity and sensitivity to different kinds of sugar. The only way to know whether removing a particular sugar is going to help your child’s ability to focus, is to experiment. Having said this, keep in mind that most people of all ages suffer negative effects of high amounts of sugar in the diet. To do your experiment, remove, or even just significantly reduce, a source of sugar from your child’s diet and note what happens. Start with high glycemic sugars like white sugar and brown sugar. Move on to maple syrup, honey and agave. If you are using other sugars, remove them as well as part of your experiment. What is wrong with processed and refined sugar? They would immediately go to your child’s bloodstream, increasing his or her blood glucose level. High blood glucose means that your body will have difficulty metabolizing essential nutrients. The immediate impact of high blood glucose is stress inside the body, making it difficult to focus and concentrate.

Increase Protein
Centers in the brain responsible for attention and focus rely on two amino acids: tyrosine and tryptophan. Consuming a diet rich in these two amino acids can help increase focus. Protein-rich foods like meat, eggs and dairy products are high in tyrosine and tryptophan. The same goes for soy, nuts and legumes. Bananas, brown rice, tomatoes, avocado, pineapples and beets are also good vegetarian sources of tyrosine and tryptophan. In addition, there are natural tyrosine and tryptophan supplements available in health stores.

Eat Moderately
Note: the ability to focus depends not just on what you eat, but on how much you eat. If your child eats too much – even if the food is wholesome –  feelings of fatigue and lethargy may impact on the ability to concentrate. Similarly, eating too little will make a child prone to hunger pangs and stress – making it all the more difficult to concentrate. Children in the habit of skipping meals are less likely to be able to focus than children who eat on time regularly.

Consider Food Sensitivities
Sometimes food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies can agitate a child’s entire body and mind. This can cause a range of disturbances that might impact on concentration and focus such as foggy brain, hyperactivity, distractibility, anxious feelings and more. A professional naturopath, dietician, allergist, medical doctor or other health care provider may be able to help you explore this possible cause of focusing difficulties. Or, you may experiment with adding and subtracting foods from the diet in a systematic way to note whether concentration improves or worsens in relation to those changes.

What Parents Should Know About Fast Food

There are many facts that every parent should know about fast food. Here are some for starters:

1. Fast foods are often heavy in calories

An adult would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, French Fries and a Big Mac. Younger kids with smaller bodies are consuming an even greater proportion of unnecessary calories unless they are eating child-sized meals. But even then, these foods have way too many calories. In fact, this is why fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Left unabated, obesity will soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in America. Moreover, even if one doesn’t die from obesity but simply lives with it, quality of life is often impaired. Obesity has been linked to: hypertension, coronary heart disease, adult onset diabetes, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, endometrial, breast, prostate and colon cancers, dyslipidemia, steatohepatitis, insulin resistance, breathlessness, asthma, among other serious diseases.

3. Fast foods are high in preservatives and low on nutritional value

4. Most nutritionists recommend not eating fast food more than once a month

5. Fast food is possibly linked to cases of increased inattention and hyperactivity in children

Even with the release of the educational film “Super Size M” in 2004, there has been no real decline in fast food sales in America. On the contrary: fast food consumption is on the increase! And yet, many parents still wish they could feed their kids three nutritious meals a day.

If you are one of these parents, here are a few tips on how to inspire your kids to avoid fast food:

Provide the Necessary Information
Explain why fast food is harmful. Fortunately, there are now some really excellent picture books that can help you get your point across to both young children and teens. The series entitled “Eat This, Not That” provides a wealth of information in a fun format that appeals to kids of all ages. Although one of the books is specifically addressed to young people (“Eat This, Not That, for Kids”), the other books are also highly accessible. Parents can read and discuss the material at the dinner table and/or just leave the book(s) lying around the house. “Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss” is another wonderful educational aid, interesting to the whole family.

Condition Them to Like Healthy Foods
Cook healthy delicious food at home. The trick here is to get your child’s palette used to the taste of healthy food and to come to prefer it over the the taste of commercially prepared fast foods. If your kids are used to the fast food taste already, then help them make a gradual transition to a healthier diet. At first, offer foods that are similar to fast food – for instance, introduce fruit shakes in place of ice teas, sausages instead of hot dogs, pesto instead of spaghetti, tacos instead of chips. Gradual transitions can help kids adjust to a new diet more easily.

Avoid stuffing food in the refrigerator for your kids to heat via microwave whenever they are hungry. Microwaved food tastes a bit too much like fast food. Instead, as often as possible, sit down together and eat freshly prepared meals. Even the act of sitting down together is an important step in developing a healthy food consciousness, regardless of what is being served.

Introduce Your Kids to the World of Good Food
Consider introducing “fine cuisine” into your family culture. Get cookbooks out of the library and experiment with interesting, even exotic dishes. Bake up a storm. Teach the kids how to do the same, approaching them in ways appropriate for their age. When people taste really good food, they often become “food snobs” – preferring quality food to “fast food” any day. All the lectures about health and well-being can’t compete with the impact of the taste of really delicious food!

Nightmares

Everyone dreams. Most people probably remember having at least one nightmare – a very frightening dream. There are some people who are bothered by regular nightmares, so much so that they don’t want to go to sleep. This can happen to children as well as to adults. After experiencing a traumatic event, people can have nightmares virtually nightly, until the trauma is resolved. Whether it’s once in a blue moon or a regular occurrence, a child’s nightmare always requires parental attention.

If your child has had nightmares, consider the following tips:

Some Kids are Sensitive to Images
Some kids are particularly vulnerable to scary images they see in books, movies and on T.V.. They can also create their own frightening images based on what they hear in snippets of conversations around them.  It isn’t possible to always shelter kids from unpleasant images, but parents can certainly respect the child’s vulnerability and try to limit frightening stimulation – for example, there is no need to insist that a child confront a disturbing image that is only recreational in nature (i.e a violent movie). If a child has come across a disturbing image, parents can help the child to talk about it, both accepting the child’s fear and also explaining the pretend-nature of the picture. For children whose vivid imaginations and sensitivity often lead to nightmares, parents can try offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut – a harmless, water-based form of vibrational medicine available at health food stores everywhere. Give two drops in liquid (water, juice, milk, etc.) four times a day until the nightmares stop. Or, for nightmares about ghosts and other vague, scary fantasies, try the Bach Remedy called Aspen. The remedy Mimulus can help with nightmares about more specific fears, such as people dying or scary events like being robbed or chased. A Bach Flower practitioner can help further. You may also find more information about Bach Flower Remedies on this site.

Nightmares can be Triggered by Food Sensitivities
If there is no other apparent reason for the nightmares, you might consider the possibility of food sensitivities. Sometimes such sensitivities can chemical processes that can cause nightmares. Any food can cause problems, so you might need a systematic approach to food elimination in order to find out if there is a sensitivity. Naturopaths and self-help books can help with the process, or you might be able to find a medical specialist who tests for sensitivities (not allergies).

Consider Stress or Traumatic Events
If your child has experienced a stressful event or situation lately (i.e. medical or dental procedures, moving, a mean teacher, examinations, and so on), or even a traumatic experience (car accident, robbery, bullying, assault, family violence), then it’s possible that the nightmare is a sign that he or she is having difficulty coping with the situation. If a child who recently experienced the death of a loved one, for example, gets recurring nightmares, it’s possible that there are feelings he or she can’t identify or express. The child may also have experienced some sort of traumatic or overwhelming experience that you aren’t aware of – at school, at a place of worship, at an extracurricular activity, while volunteering or babysitting or even in your own home with his or her siblings or other relatives.  If you KNOW that something stressful has happened, be sure to talk to your child, naming the feelings that YOU would have if you were dealing with that situation. Help the child to express his or her feelings by using Emotional Coaching  (learn how to use this technique in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Unremitting nightmares should always best checked out by a child psychologist.

Medicines, Substances and Illness
Certain health conditions can trigger nightmares, as can mind-altering substances and even over-the-counter medications. Withdrawal from substances can also trigger nightmares. If your child has been unwell or on medication and is having unusual nightmares, speak to the pediatrician.

Ways to Help Your Child
Accept your child’s fear and anxiety. Saying things like, “It’s not real. Go back to sleep,” doesn’t do anything to comfort a child and may even make them feel ashamed simply for having a normal reaction. Remember: to a young child, a dream can be so vivid, it feels like it actually happened. Go slowly and gently, taking time to calm and soothe your child to help orient him back to reality. Give a hug or a kiss or rub his or her back. Get him or her a glass of water or even a cracker to munch on, as eating and drinking are “grounding” activities that bring a child back into his body and away from the fantasy in his head. Putting a few drops of Rescue Remedy in the water can be particularly helpful, or even dropping them on a child’s wrists will work (Rescue Remedy is available in health food stores and is a harmless Bach Flower Remedy that quickly turns off adrenaline and restores emotional balance in cases where the fight-or-flight response has been activated.)

After a bad dream, separation anxiety may re-surface. Kids may demand that you stay with them as they go back to sleep, or they might insist on following you back to your room. They may also put up a big fuss when you attempt to leave their presence. Remember that these responses to terrifying dreams are all normal. Because your child is feeling fearful and maybe even disoriented and confused, make the exception if possible, and indulge his or her need for physical presence.

Nightmares are ultimately fantasy, so fantasy is an excellent way to deal with them. If your child’s nightmare did not have a happy ending, perhaps you can continue the story together — with your child emerging triumphant against the object of his or her fear. For instance, if the nightmare is about being attacked by monsters, a child can be encouraged to pretend that he or she is a “monster exterminator.” The child can role-play assertively warning the monster that he’s toast, and capturing the monster with special weapons. Although this may seem silly, this very strategy is used very successfully to help victims of trauma to deal with their terrifying nightmares.

Help Your Child Cope with the Aftereffects of a Nightmare
Sometimes the fear isn’t just an aftershock to a nightmare. It’s also possible that a nightmare creates worry that tragedy will happen in real life. For example, dreaming that a loved one died can create fear in a child that the loved one will indeed pass away. Gently but firmly explain to your child that just because something happened in a dream doesn’t mean it will happen in real life. At the same time, acknowledge your child’s fear. For instance, you can say something like, “I understand that you’re worried that Grandpa will die because he died in your dream. That must make you feel very sad.” When you name the child’s feeling, the feeling will intensify (often to the point of tears) and then disappear. In this example, the child might cry when the parent acknowledges the sad thought and then the child might say, “Anyway, it was just a dream. I know Grandpa is fine.” Allowing a person to feel his feelings is a fast way of helping that person to clear the negative feelings out of his system.

Help Your Child Prevent Nightmares
If a nightmare has really made a child feel helpless and victimized, you can teach him ways on how to manipulate images in a dream. While controlling one’s dreams takes practice to learn to do, the steps are child-friendly. Just encourage kids to visualize their desired dream content when they get to bed (“think of something nice that you’d like to dream about”), and remind themselves that they are just dreaming when faced with bad dream content. They can wake themselves up and change their focus to a positive storyline as they fall asleep again.

In addition, using effective stress management techniques before bed can help alleviate bad dreams. For instance, you might teach your child EFT (emotional freedom technique – there’s lots of on-line resources for this technique as well as therapists who can teach it to your child) so that the child can remove worries, fears and problems from his mind before falling asleep (YOU should learn it too!). This helps the mind have a better, more peaceful rest.

For a recurring nightmare, ask the child to create a satisfactory ending for the bad dream. Have him tell you the dream along with the new ending. Have him do it over and over until he feels calm. If he’s old enough, he can also write and rewrite the new dream, helping to install it deeper in his unconscious mind.

Therapeutic Bedtime Stories
Parents can make up healing bedtime stories for young children. One way to do this is to create a main character whose name just happens to be the same name as that of your frightened child. By way of example, let’s call the main character in our story “Liam.” The title of the series of stories is “Liam the Brave.” You now make up a different story each night about episodes starring Liam-the-Brave. In each story, Liam fights off scary foes using his arsenal of magic weapons. For instance, on Monday night, Liam-the-Brave takes a canoe trip down the river in deepest Africa. As he passes through the tropical jungle, he encounters crocodiles, warrior tribes, hungry animals and more. Every time he faces a threat, he pulls out a magic weapon from his magic weapon bag and aims it at the “enemy.” By waving, shaking or otherwise triggering the weapon, Liam successfully makes the threat vanish into thin air. He then continues on his trip, observing the beautiful waterfalls, plants and friendly animals, until the next threat appears. And so on. Of course, the story always ends happily with Liam arriving at his destination. On Tuesday night, the parent tells a similar story, this time taking place in outer space. On Wednesday night, the events may take place in the Antarctic and so on. Although the stories are nonsensical, they have been shown to give children a sense of power over internal enemies. Try them for a week or so and see if they help end your child’s nightmares and his fear of having bad dreams.

Consider Professional Help
Your child should not have to suffer from regular nightmares. Be sure to speak to your doctor and/or a child psychologist if your interventions have not resolved the problem.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating is a way to get nourishment and sustenance; it is, for the most part, a pleasant and fulfilling act. Sometimes, however, eating becomes part of a disabling or even life-threatening disorder.

What is an Eating Disorder? 
As the term implies, an eating disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by dysfunctional eating patterns such as overeating, deliberate starvation, binging and purging. Eating disorders are associated with extreme concern or anxiety related to one’s body shape, size or weight. Some family therapists have conceptualized eating disorders as illnesses related to issues of control, like addictions or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Whatever the cause, an eating disorder is conceded as both a physiological and a psychological problem.

Who are at Risk? 
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders occur frequently among adolescents and young adults, although there have been reported cases of childhood eating disorders and eating disorders that occur during late adulthood. The disorders are more prevalent among women than men, although in recent years, men are suffering in greater numbers.

What are the Types of Eating Disorders?
Types of eating disorders may include:

Anorexia NervosaAnorexia Nervosa is characterized by the relentless pursuit of thinness despite severe negative consequences. People with Anorexia Nervosa are convinced that they are too fat or too heavy, even if objectively they are already underweight. They may therefore engage in excessive dieting, self-induced vomiting, overexercising, the use of diuretics and laxatives, and abuse of weight management pills. Alarmingly, people with Anorexia Nervosa are ten times more likely to die from the condition than those without the disease.

Bulimia Nervosa. Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by repeated patterns of binging and purging. Binging refers to the consumption of large amounts of food in a short time, e.g. eating several plates of pasta in one sitting. Purging refers to the compensatory action to get rid of the food or calories consumed during the binge episode. Purging techniques include the ones people with Anorexia use to lose weight, e.g. self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics and overexercising. Unlike sufferers of Anorexia, people with Bulimia may have normal body weight.

Obesity. Obesity is a condition of excess weight – essentially the result of consuming more calories than are needed for energy. It can affect a teenager’s self-image and self-confidence and it can also affect his or her health. For instance, obesity is sometimes associated with the development of insulin resistance – a sensitivity to sugars in the blood. This condition can be a precursor to a more serious condition such as diabetes.

How are Eating Disorders Treated?
There are three steps to treating eating disorders.

The first step is the physiological or medical intervention. Eating disorders may be classified under mental health issues, but they carry with them serious medical effects. People with Anorexia Nervosa, for example, can suffer from severe malnutrition that serious and irreversible damage to vital organs occur. Eating disorders may even be fatal if not arrested in time. Therefore the first order of business is to restore the patient to an ideal weight, address nutrient deficiency, and treat the medical side effects of the condition.

The second step to treating eating disorders is psychological assistance. Counseling and therapy must be employed to address the psychological reasons behind the dysfunctional eating patterns. Eating disorders are related to dysfunctions in perception of one’s weight or shape. Often, patients suffer from low self-esteem, obsession about body weight, and a sense of helplessness about their situation. It is also not unusual for other mental health issues to develop because of the eating disorder, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

The last step is maintenance to prevent relapse. Like people with addictions, those with eating disorders must consistently monitor their behavior even after treatment to prevent symptoms from recurring. Joining support groups, on-going family therapy, and education about proper nutrition and weight management are ways to maintain progress in recovery from eating disorders.

How Can You Tell if Your Child is Suffering from an Eating Disorder?
You will not be ablet o diagnose an eating disorder on your own. However, what you CAN do is take your child to a doctor or psychologist for assessment if you suspect that something isn’t right. Most parents are able and willing to do this when they see that their child is overweight. However, kids suffering from bulimia may be a totally normal weight. Kids suffering from anorexia may gradually lose weight and cover it up with clothing (and excuses). However, there are some red flags that can alert a parent to the need to have the child assessed. For instance: consuming large amounts of food without gaining weight is a red flag for bulimia. Playing with food on the plate, cutting it into small bits and moving it around, becoming increasingly picky as to what is fit to eat and clearly not eating much, may be red flags for anorexia. Other symptomatic behaviors include being very cold, growing a thin layer of hair on the skin, engaging in excessive amounts of exercise, buying laxatives and vomiting without being ill. Don’t get into a conversation with your child about whether or not he or she has an eating disorder. Instead, tell your child that diagnosis will be left up to a professional.

Anorexia

The eating disorder known as “Anorexia” has become so common, that almost everyone now knows what it is. When we think of anorexia, we think of excessively skinny people – sometimes with a skeletal appearance of skin and bones – whose lives are at risk due to malnutrition. And this is exactly what the disorder leads to. Anorexia is a condition that causes people to starve themselves.

Anorexia Nervosa used to be a condition that was most commonly found in individuals whose professions demand subscription to particular “body image.” Models, actors and physical trainer, for instance, have long suffered from eating disorders because their jobs require them to look a certain way.

Unfortunately however, the incidence of Anorexia Nervosa is climbing among the general public, with highest rate found in adolescent girls. Furthermore, onset age of the disease get lower and lower each year, with girls now as young as 7 years old succumbing to the illness. It may be that the way the media portrays attractiveness, the decreased focus on healthy eating habits, and the decrease in parental guidance as dual-income families and divorcing couples increase, all contribute to the rise in adolescent anorexia.

What are the Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an irrational obsession with having a thin body.  A person with Anorexia controls his or her body weight by limiting food intake and also by attempting to “un-do” eating by inducing vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively. When kids start restricting their diet to very low calorie foods, start obsessing about and avoiding “bad” foods like fats and carbs, cut up their food in small pieces and shuffle it around their plates, wear baggy clothing to hide protruding bones, claim they’ve eaten when they haven’t, exercise way too much, and so on, it’s time for parents to be concerned.

People with Anorexia suffer from a distorted body image. Regardless of their actual weight and height, or of their objective appearance in the mirror, they still feel that they are “too fat” and need to lose some weight.

Types of Anorexia Nervosa

There are two more common types of Anorexia Nervosa: a “restricting type” and a “binge-and-purge” type. Those who belong to the first type obsessively lose weight by fasting or eating extremely small portions. Those who belong to the second type alternate between binging (eating large quantities of food), and then later finding ways to remove the eaten food before the food is digested.

A Serious, Even Fatal Disorder 

Anorexia, like all eating disorders, must be taken seriously. It is not a “teenage fad,” but rather a serious health risk.  Aside from the psychological impact of the disease, Anorexia Nervosa can result to many serious physical conditions — even death. Starvation alone may result into cardiac arrhythmia, hypotension, gastric issues and low blood pressure — not to mention various complications resulting from many nutritional deficiencies. Anorexics may require hospitalization, and a full physiological therapy, before they can even start dealing with the emotional issues associated with the disease.

What Can Parents Do? 
Given the seriousness of this disease, what can parents do to protect their children?

Preventing Anorexia Nervosa in one’s home begins by promoting a healthy body image for the family. Contrary to what the media promotes, there is no one measure of attractiveness and beauty. Similarly, body size and shape doesn’t necessarily equate to health — ethnicity, bone/muscle mass and body structure must all be taken into account before one can be considered as underweight or overweight. While parents are recommended to be health and diet conscious in the home, they must also be affirming of their child’s natural beauty so as not to encourage a pre-occupation with body image. Neither parent should praise a child for being skinny. A thin body type is simply an inherited characteristic – as is a softer, bigger look. As long as your child is not eating poorly (i.e. living on a diet of coke and cookies, munching chips and ice cream instead of eating dinner), then just help him or her to learn the basics of dressing well. For instance, a “square” shaped child will look better in a certain type of sweater/pant or skirt combination than in a different kind of outfit – teach your adolescents about dressing to highlight their own good looks. Much can be accomplished with a few library books on the subject. If your child is actually eating poorly, encourage good eating habits without becoming so intense about it that the child swings the other way; many anorexics were once overweight and compensated by going too far in the other direction. When parents are too invested in the child’s “look” they may accidentally nurture the seeds of disease.

Even more important, however, is the emotional climate of the home. Kids act out their stress with eating disorders, so try to create and maintain a fairly low-stress environment. This means, work on your marriage (or even your divorce) so that there isn’t a lot of hostility being displayed, refrain from raising your voice or using very stringent punishments, keep demands light and reasonable considering the age of the child, bring laughter and love into everyday interactions EVERY day, and don’t get too stressed yourself. Although nothing a parent does can guarantee that a child won’t succumb to eating disorders, taking these steps can reduce the chances.

If you suspect that your child is developing symptoms of anorexia, then go with the child to a medical appointment to obtain a formal assessment. You can tell your child, “I’m not an expert. I don’t know if the way you are eating and the way you look is fine or not. I am, however, feeling concerned. So I’ve made an appointment for us to see Dr. So and So, who can tell me where things stand. If there’s no problem – great! I’ll leave you alone. But if there is any problem, then we can help you with it.” Such an appointment should never be optional. If you thought that your child’s lump on her skin was suspicious, you wouldn’t ask her to please come for a biopsy. You would TELL her that she needs to be seen by a medical professional. You would not allow your child to refuse to go, knowing that untreated cancer can be life-threatening. In the same way, you need to use all of your parenting power to get your child to a doctor when you suspect the life-threatening disorder of anorexia.

Only Eats Junk Food

Is your child a junk food addict? It’s not really surprising. Junk foods are readily available these days and can tempt anyone – especially children. While junk foods may be enjoyed as a special treat – as part of a birthday celebration or some other special occasion – regular ingestion of these products is unhealthy, leading to an array of issues ranging from cavities to diabetes. But how can parents get their children to enjoy real food that can truly nourish their bodies and souls?

If your child only eats junk foods, consider the following tips:

Start Early
If you can instill a love for healthy foods as early as toddlerhood, your child is less likely to jump on the junk foods bandwagon. After all, kids crave what their taste buds are used to. Introduce soft drinks, cakes and chips early in life, and you’ll be battling them for years. But introduce healthier alternatives like grains, seasoned vegetables, tender meats, cheese and yogurt, and fresh fruit to your young child, and they’ll enjoy these healthy foods for a lifetime. Since you have more control over your toddler’s diet than you will have at any point in the child’s life, it’s up to YOU to get your child started right with food. However, your child will also be exposed to your own diet and to the foods of others around him. If sweets and empty foods are being consumed by others (as they most likely are), don’t deprive your child! Rather, offer the occasional sugar-free look-alike (homemade cookies sweetened with juice, Stevia or agave), sugar-free candies and the occasional actual sugar treat. Junk food in moderation will not harm your child, just be careful that it is not consumed in excess.

Refrain from “Doctoring” the Food
Something that parents learn quite early is that making food sweeter increases its likelihood of being ingested. They put (sugar-based) ketchup on food and magically, their youngster eats it. They put chocolate chips on it, chocolate syrup in it, spoonfuls of sugar all over it and it suddenly becomes appetizing. Although most parents are aware that the sugar is not good for the child, they are just happy that the child is eating the good food along with the not-so-good food. In their mind, it is worth a bit of empty calories to get their child to eat some nutritious foods.

Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to have the child eat something, parents have sacrificed long-term good eating habits for short-term meal solutions. They are soon dismayed to find that their child no longer likes anything that isn’t sugar-coated. Now they have a toddler who eats sweet cereal, chocolate milk, candy and french fries, but little that is actually good, normal, nutritious food. When the problem gets so out of hand that parents can no longer justify doctoring the food to make it palatable, they want to know how to retrace their steps and get their child eating right.

Serve Junk Foods Only When Kids are Full
Some parents believe that junk foods can be consumed as an occasional guilty pleasure. After all, an ice cream cone now and then can be a great treat. However, if you’d like to treat the family to occasional junk foods, try to do it after your child has eaten a full meal. This way kids won’t be tempted to eat too much of the bad stuff – as they have already eaten something. Allowing your child the occasional junk food treat – instead of letting junk food be the staple food of your child’s diet – will also make your child appreciate it more as the treat it is meant to be.

Limit the Processed Sugar in Your Child’s Diet
Research has shown that the more we eat sugar, the more we crave sugar. As most junk foods are rich in sugar, they are a natural choice to manage sugar cravings. To limit your child’s junk food intake, stick to sugarless alternatives (and there are many). To satisfy that sweet tooth, use dried fruits in moderation, fruit juices, Stevia (a herbal product), xylitol, palm sugar, coconut sugar and other low glycemic alternatives. None of these produces the sugar spike and sugar cravings that real sugar creates.

At first, your child may refuse to eat what you offer – don’t worry about it. In fact, you WANT the child to reach a state of hunger. Don’t worry – you’re child won’t let him or herself starve; rather, when hungry, he or she will be much more willing to try a new food. All food actually tastes a lot better when a person hasn’t eaten for awhile – when the person is really hungry. Now that the child has had even a small amount of real food, he or she will eat it again (because it was, at least, edible and perhaps even, good). Research has shown that after just one week of eating a food, it will start to taste really good, even if the person didn’t like it originally. For instance, a child who is used to drinking cow’s milk finds that cow’s milk tastes good. When offered a milk substitute for the first time (soy, rice, hemp or almond), the child will often balk. However, if cow’s milk is withdrawn from the diet and only the substitute is offered, the substitute will indeed indeed begin to taste good and normal, after only a few days. If the substitute is continuously given, then cow’s milk will be the unusual and odd-tasting food.

Using these principles, parents can re-train a junk-food addict of any age. However, the job is easiest with toddlers. Toddlers can’t help themselves to food, so they are totally dependent on what they are fed. As long as parents are willing to be firm and consistent, withdrawing sugar from regular meals and limiting it to rare snacks given at specified times during the week (i.e. the child gets a cookie snack in the afternoon daily, but never gets any other sugar in her diet), the child will soon be eating and enjoying real food!

Make Simple Rules
Instead of fighting with your child about junk food, make simple rules about its permissibility and stick to them. For instance, you can have a rule that candy is served only on Saturday – never at any other time. Or, you can have a rule that plain cookies and pretzels can go in a lunch box, while fancier cookies and pastries are for Sunday brunch only. Perhaps you want a rule that states that potato chips and colas are only served at family gatherings (birthday parties and celebrations). You can make any rule you like, but try NOT to make a rule that permanently and totally prohibits all junk food – such rules tend to cause kids to become obsessed with getting their hands on candy and other unhealthy snacks. Serving it in moderation at predictable times helps prevent obsession and other nasty behaviors like stealing other kids’ snacks. If children are served delicious healthy foods most of the time, they tend to have little craving for the junk.

Prepare a Healthy Lunch Box
If the school canteen has an array of tempting junk, try to provide school snacks from home. Eliminate the need to visit the cafeteria by packing your child a healthy snack box. Health food stores carry a large selection of delicious junk-food look-alikes and, if you have time to bake, you can control your own ingredients to make nutritious and delicious treats that your kids will love. They really won’t be pining for the canteen. Does your child yearn for cool packaging? Maybe you can even wrap your goodies in an appealing way. Here’s your chance to be creative!

Be Firm, Consistent and Patient
Don’t be swayed by your child’s tantrums and tears. Instead, simply remain calm and firm. No need to scream back! Just learn to say, ‘No.’ Don’t worry – as long as you don’t start yelling, your child will still love you plenty even if you stop feeding him or her tons of junk food. You needn’t be afraid of your child. You are NOT hurting your child by limiting junk to a small percent of the diet. On the contrary, you are helping your child be healthy life-long. Your child is too young to appreciate that right now, but YOU know the truth. Your child needs to learn to gracefully accept your guidance and limitations and is much more likely to do that when you remain calm, firm and consistent. Eventually, your child will stop protesting, settle down and enjoy his or her food. Patience will pay off.

Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder – but one that is not necessarily easy to spot in one’s own child. Other eating disorders are more visible. For instance, pills almost anyone can recognize obesity – a condition in which the sufferer is significantly overweight. People can also often recognize cases of anorexia nervosa – the condition in which a person is severely under his or her ideal weight (and may therefore look painfully skinny and boney). However, it is not possible to identify someone with Bulimia Nervosa just by looking. The sufferer of this eating disorder may be a perfectly normal weight. It is not the WEIGHT that is disordered in this condition, but rather the way in which the person maintains that weight.  A bulimic (one who suffers from bulimia nervosa) eats way too many calories in one sitting (for example, a number of grilled cheese sandwiches, a full tub of ice cream, a box of crackers, a bag of chips and a plate of waffles). This episode of overeating is called “bingeing.” It is normally followed by feelings of panic (about gaining too much weight), shame and guilt and an intense effort to “undo” the eating behavior by engaging in excessive exercise or using laxatives to empty the gut, or inducing vomiting for the same purpose. Episodes of bingeing and purging (over-eating and then “undoing” the calories somehow) can sometimes occur many times a day. On average, people with Bulimia binge 12 times a week, consuming as much as 11,500 calories. Foods rich in processed sugar and fat, such as pastry, ice cream, bread and donuts are the most common objects of binges.

Bulimia Nervosa is more common than Anorexia, and affects girls more than boys.

Signs of Bulimia
Although parents can’t tell from LOOKING at their child that the youngster is suffering from bulimia, they may be able to discern a problem by observing their child’s behavior. Those suffering from bulimia usually feel a lack of control when it comes to eating. While most of us stop eating when we feel full, those with bulimia keep on eating to the point of feeling pain.  This inability to control their eating can be very embarrassing and typically bulimics try to hide their binging and purging.  Some typical symptoms that may indicate bulimia are:

  • Wanting to eat alone
  • Eating very little in public
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Disappearance of food
  • Hidden stashes of junk food
  • Eating large amounts of food without putting on weight
  • Excessive exercising
  • Using laxatives, enemas or diuretics

People with bulimia may also have physical symptoms caused by purging.  These include:

  • Puffy cheeks caused by repeated vomiting
  • Discoloured teeth caused by exposure to stomach acid when throwing up
  • Frequent fluctuations in weight
  • Calluses or scars on knuckles and hands caused by putting fingers down the throat to induce vomiting

An Impulse-Control Issue
Are sufferers of Bulimia Nervosa aware that their eating pattern is dysfunctional? Yes. However, they have difficulty controlling themselves; the act of binging and purging is a compulsion. In fact, many Bulimics report that they only stop a cycle of binging or purging when they feel physical pain. Otherwise, they can’t help themselves. They have a compulsion that is too strong for them to overcome, much like an addicts relationship to his substance.

Bulimia Nervosa has been linked to emotional stress as well as body image issues. Low self-esteem, a history of abuse, a difficult life transition, traumatic experiences and other stresses have been found to be higher in those suffering from Bulimia. In addition, there is a higher rate of bulimia in those who are drawn to a body-conscious hobby or profession like modeling, ballet, gymnastics or physical fitness training. It is not clear whether the activity and peer pressure found in the activity actually induces bulimia or whether those with bulimic tendencies (obsession about body image) may choose those activities to begin with.

A Serious Health Threat
Bulimia is a serious health issue. Chronic bingeing and purging can cause serious gastro-intestinal diseases. The purging (in the form of vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics) can lead to electrolyte imbalances, usually in the form of low potassium levels. Low potassium results in symptoms such as lethargy, confusion, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac and kidney dysfunction. In severe cases it can even cause death. Other effects of bulimia may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Constipation caused by chronic laxative use
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Tooth decay
  • Chronic sore throat and hoarseness
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Weakness and dizziness
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Acid reflux

Risk Factors
Bulimia generally begins in adolescence and 90 – 95% of those with the disease are women.  There is no single cause for bulimia but low self-esteem and poor body image are often contributing factors.  Some of the more common risk factors for bulimia are:

  • Dieting – people who diet on a regular basis are more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t.
  • Involvement in professions/activities that emphasize weight control – the pressure placed on gymnasts, dancers, models, actors, and other athletes to maintain a certain weight can lead to the development of eating disorders.
  • Low self esteem – this can be a result of abuse, depression, a critical home environment, and a desire for perfection.
  • Poor body image – young women are often influenced by our culture’s glorification of thinness and beauty.
  • Major life changes – bulimia is sometimes a reaction to stress, which can accompany a major life change.  Examples of major life changes may be; moving away from home, puberty, divorce, and the break-up of relationships.
  • Biological factors – since eating disorders run in families there is likely a genetic component.  In addition, research indicates that low serotonin levels play a role in bulimia.

Treatment for Bulimia
Treatment for Bulimia should be a combination of a medical and a psychological program. At times, an in-patient weight management program needs to be implemented alongside counseling in order to address the two critical aspects of the illness. Most often, however, bulimia is effectively treated on an out-patient basis. People do heal from this disorder. They may have relapses occasionally but when they learn effective stress-management techniques they can usually prevent relapses over the long-run. Seeking counseling and using self-help strategies are both important for long term recovery.

Psychotherapy is the main form of treatment for bulimia.  Specifically, cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to break the binge-and-purge cycle and change unhealthy thought patterns.

Medication such as anti-depressants may also be used.  These help to reduce binge eating and treat the depression that is often a part of bulimia.

Diabetes

Diabetes is an umbrella term used for various conditions related to high blood sugar  or hyperglycemia. The exact cause of diabetes is still unknown, but most cases are related to the body’s inability to secrete enough insulin (the hormone that metabolizes sugar), or the inability to use secreted insulin optimally. The former is called Type 1 diabetes; the latter is known as Type 2 diabetes.  People with diabetes can suffer from high blood sugar, unless they pay careful attention to their daily sugar intake. High blood sugar (also called high glycemic index or high GI) can lead to many health complications, including heart and liver disease. Complications associated with diabetes include blindness, kidney problems (including hepatic failure), and leg amputation. Diabetes is also linked to an increased risk for heart problems including hypertension, stroke and heart attack.

Alarmingly, the age onset of diabetes is getting younger and younger, with most cases of childhood diabetes of the Type 1 variety. Even more alarming: most children with Type 1 diabetes have no family history of the disease! While official findings have yet to be released, current research suggests diet and lifestyle as the culprits of this increase.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is increasing as well. This finding is significant, as Type 2 diabetes is typically found only among men and women 40 years old and above. The CDC attributes this increase to what it calls an “epidemic of obesity,” as well as the low level of physical activity among young people. Exposure to diabetes in the womb also increases children’s risk of developing diabetes.

Know the Signs
Parents can be on the lookout for symptoms of diabetes in their children. Increased thirst, increased urination, constant fatigue, and unexplained weight loss are often signals of high blood sugar. Stomach pains and headaches may also be indicators. If you spot these symptoms in your child, arrange a visit to your child’s doctor.

How Can Parent Help Prevent and Treat Diabetes in Their Kids?
Kids (and adults too!) gravitate towards sweet food. Cakes, candies, soft drinks, and all sorts of preserves are too tempting to resist. The same can be said about meals made from starch. Have you ever known a child who says “no” to a bowl of spaghetti, a slice of bread or a chocolate sprinkled donut? Delicious and convenient as these meals may be, parents have a responsibility to try to control their children’s sugar and starch intake – not only because these foods often have very little nutrient value, but because they put the children at risk for diabetes.

For most people, sugar refers only to the sweet crystals from the sugar cane plant, the one we add to our coffee and tea. Thus, when asked to limit sugar intake, they only avoid these sweeteners. But the fact is, our body transforms almost all of the food we eat into sugar. Parents should ideally be aware of what foods contain natural sugars. For instance, foods rich in carbohydrates and starch are rich in a type of sugar called glucose. Thus, people with diabetes, whether it’s Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2, should limit their intake of breads, pastries, pastas, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Heavily processed foods, such as those that  underwent various treatments to be better preserved, can release these sugars too quickly into the bloodstream and so must be carefully avoided.

Contrary to popular belief, people with diabetes are not required to abstain totally from sugar. After all, our body gets energy from carbohydrates. The trick is to eat only enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels. If one is taking insulin injections, then it’s important to match one’s carbohydrate intake with insulin dose. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) must also be avoided. A doctor and/or dietitian can help provide information and diets to maintain optimum health.

Offer Lots of Fiber and Water
Offer your child the kinds of food that balance blood sugars. People with diabetes are encouraged to include in their diet rich sources of fiber. These foods include whole grain and whole grain products, fruits and vegetables. These natural products are less likely to impact the body’s glycemic level. Also, they provide vitamins and minerals integral to overall health.

Liquids are also important in helping manage our blood sugar. Aside from the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, people with diabetes are advised to have more, especially if they just ate sugar. Drinking lots of fluids can help flush down the sugar in one’s system.

Offer Alternative Sweeteners
Having diabetes need not necessarily mean that a child has to totally avoid sweet food and food products like cakes and soda. Today, there are many artificial sweeteners that can provide flavor to many meals, and thus create sugar-free options. Many of these sweeteners are approved by the Food and Drug Authority. Note though: the label “no sugar added” is different from “sugar-free.” If there are natural sugars in a product (like orange juice which naturally contains sugar from the orange fruit), “no sugar added” simply means that there’s no additional sugar that what’s naturally found in the product. To be safe, always read the nutritional information in product packages. Your child dietitian can recommend a range of sugar substitutes, some of which you can find in your local supermarket and some of which you’ll find in your neighborhood health food store.

Healthy Proteins
The good news for your youngster is that there are no recommended restrictions on protein-rich foods (chicken, turkey, meat, fish) for diabetics, no more than the restrictions imposed on people without diabetes. The usual dietary allowance of protein, around 20% of the person’s total source of energy, is recommended for diabetics. Make sure though that fat intake is limited to what is called good cholesterol as hypertension and obesity are additional health risks for people with diabetes.

Helping Your Child with Diabetes
While parents can understand the need for nutritional control in managing diabetes, many children cannot! They want to eat what they want to eat and they want to eat what their friends are eating. Parents can help reduce resistance to dietary management by showing understanding and empathy. “I know it’s hard and frustrating. It seems so unfair.” By acknowledging the child’s feelings out loud, parents can help the child release those feelings and move on. Parents need to be aware that because children lack maturity, they will often be tempted to “cheat” on their dietary restrictions. Because teens perceive themselves as invincible, they will do the same. Parents need lots of patience! Realize that this is all a normal part of life for diabetic youngsters. Eventually they will come to terms with their health condition and learn to be responsible for themselves. Meanwhile, parents can try to guide their children without resorting to heavy duty criticism, supervision or scare tactics. If necessary, have your pediatrician or nutritionist speak to your child directly. Sometimes the authority of a medical health professional is more powerful than the coaxing of a parent.

An Incurable and Progressive Disease
It’s important for parents to understand that diabetes is an incurable disease. Worse, left unmanaged, diabetes can produce serious – even fatal—complications.

No treatment has been found to cure or eliminate diabetes. Once your child develops this disease, he or she has it for life. While there are medications that can help control blood sugar, all these drugs can do is to help manage the disease. Constant monitoring of blood sugar, as well as the right diet and lifestyle, are critical to ensure that the condition do not turn for the worse.

Teething

Teething refers to the eruption of new teeth in the baby, a developmental milestone that usually first occurs around 6 – 10 months of age although sometimes starts as early as 3 months. Some babies teeth appear one at a time. Others cut several teeth simultaneously. Teething is usually a painless process. However, some babies do experience uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, there can be loss of appetite, sleeplessness, ear pulling, gum rubbing, coughing, and possibly a low fever. Drooling may cause an uncomfortable  rash around the mouth. Some infants and toddlers  experience significant soreness, swelling and even blisters in their gums during this period. It is common (and understandable) for babies and toddlers to be more distressed and irritable than usual when they are teething.

If your baby is in the process of teething, consider the following tips:

Unhappy Babies
Parents are advised to be more patient and sensitive to their child’s changing moods and needs during the teething stage. Infants can become so distressed with teething pains that they cry all the time. Teething may also result in behavior traditionally associated with infant distress, such as clinging to Mom or refusing to be separated. Try to be patient – your little one will become more independent and happy again when the tooth finally appears. However, as many teeth need to cut through, you can realistically expect to have to settle and soothe your teething baby off and on for almost 3 years! There are likely to be some hard days and nights. Even so, these will be scattered between the happier, pain-free periods, giving both you and your baby a much welcomed break!

How to Help Your Teething Baby
Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to help. If there is inflammation, applying something cold to the gums usually helps. Gently rubbing ice cubes in the area where the tooth is about to come out has been known to soothe pain. There are also teething toys, such as teething rings, that you can place in the freezer for an additional chill. Frozen washcloths and cold water are also good alternatives. Some parents have found cold foods such as yogurt and chilled applesauce to be helpful. If none of the above work for your baby, you can try using Infant Tylenol and other infant medicines. Your pediatrician may recommend a specific product.

Traditional means of soothing a distressed infant are also recommended during this stage. At this time, traditional comforts such as holding and rocking are definitely in order. Providing additional stimulation, such as a gentle massage, may also prove a valid distraction to a baby that is teething.

Making Temporary Adjustments
If the soreness is interfering with the infant’s ability to eat and drink, parents might have to make some temporary changes in the child’s diet or feeding style. For instance, a child on solids may need a temporary liquid diet until chewing becomes more comfortable again. Offering the child cold water in between feedings can also help. In some cases, giving a child something solid to bite on is very helpful (avoid choking hazards of course!).

The good news is that teething eventually comes to an end. For most kids, the stage passes uneventfully with minor symptoms requiring little or no intervention.

Stomach Aches as a Symptom of Stress

Children get a variety of aches and pains just like grown ups do, but “tummy aches” seem particularly common. Although the doctor may find a physical cause, this is the least common scenario; apart from constipation and food intolerance, medical reasons for this pain are rarely discovered. A gastroenterologist (stomach disorder specialist) may need to be part of the medical team in severe and unremitting cases. However, since food sensitivities often cause stomach pain, after the doctors’ examinations, a naturopathic assessment might be helpful too. In addition, emotional stress can cause stomach pain. In fact, once all medical and physical causes have been ruled out, it is generally assumed that the child’s stomach ache is either stress-induced or even imaginary. Since stress, upset, fear and pressure can cause all kinds of bodily symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, colds, sleep disorders and so on), it is safe to assume that a child who complains about stomach aches actually has them. Usually the pediatrician makes a diagnosis of “anxiety” or “stress.”  Of course parents are rarely surprised at such a diagnosis: they themselves already suspect emotional causes for the tummy aches since they so often occur in the year of the “hated” teacher or in the week of the spelling test. The only thing parents may wonder about is if the pain is real or if it is offered up as an escape clause.

The Body Speaks
Although some desperate children may take to lying about their pain, most who complain of stomach aches, head aches, dizziness and other stress symptoms are in fact describing exactly what they are feeling. Stress causes bodily changes in children and grownups alike and has been sighted in the medical literature as being the underlying cause for about 80% of all true medical conditions. Stress hurts both physically and emotionally. Each person will first experience stress in his or her genetically endowed vulnerable physical systems: some people will first experience stress in their stomachs, others in tight muscles, some in head pain, some in lowered immunity, some in increased anxiety and some in lowered mood. Untended stress can actually lead to disease as it penetrates deeper in the physical body and it can even lead to death.

For healthy youngsters stress rarely causes more than temporary physical discomfort or ailments such as colds, flu’s, diarrhea, constipation, headaches or migraines. However, the explanation “it’s just stress” does nothing to relieve any of these conditions. Whereas adults may be advised to seek professional counseling for the relief of their stress, children are rarely advised to do anything about it at all. Parents often “treat” stress-induced tummy aches by telling the child, “Don’t worry. It’s nothing. The doctor says you’re fine.”

Taking Stress Seriously
Such a strategy teaches children to ignore their initial symptoms of stress – the ones that go through their “vulnerable systems” as discussed above. This means that they may develop the habit of waiting until the stress has penetrated further, causing intense problems in their vulnerable physical/mental systems or moving into other systems of the body, creating symptoms and illnesses that can no longer be ignored. Indeed, some experts say that adults can reduce their chances of experiencing serious illness by paying attention to the body’s first signals that all is not well, rather than continuously ignoring minor signs and symptoms. Teaching kids this valuable health lesson involves refraining from minimizing the significance of their stress. It’s important NOT to use the phrase, “just stress.” Instead, parents can acknowledge the importance of stress in their child’s life. “Is your tummy hurting again Honey? I guess that means there is a part of you that is worried or bothered about something. Why don’t you close your eyes for a minute and ask your tummy what it is trying to tell you? If you listen carefully, your tummy will tell you what it’s upset about.” Even if the child cannot create a communication with his subconscious mind this way (but don’t be surprised – many children and adults can actually do this!) – the parent is teaching that the body and mind are linked and that stress is something to pay attention to. It is possible too, that the child doesn’t have to ask his tummy – he already KNOWS what it is bothering him. In that case, the parent can simply acknowledge that fear and upset happen in both the mind and the body and that we have to take care of both parts of ourselves.

Stress Management for Kids
Identifying the source of stress must be followed by an action plan. Sometimes it is possible to reduce the stress itself by making a changes in the real world (“How about taking one course less this term?” or “I’ll talk to the teacher and see how we can adjust things,”). Even when it isn’t possible to remove or adjust the stress, strengthening and calming the body is always an essential part of stress management. Helping the child sleep and eat better, exercise more, laugh more and relax more can reduce the harmful effects of stress. Taking the child for art therapy or talking therapy, naturopathic support or other professional support may provide profound relief. Allowing the child to talk about his stress can help prevent the stress from moving into the body where it becomes a “tummy ache.” Parents can use emotional coaching – naming, accepting and validating feelings – to help stress-proof their kids. In faith based homes, teaching children to talk directly to God about their problems and teaching them that God hears, cares and acts, can be an excellent stress management tool – as the research literature indicates. Of course, parents should model all of the interventions they want their kids to use and more. Children learn about stress management through watching you live your life in balance. Stress management can be a family project in which everyone takes on a minor lifestyle adjustment or specific relaxation strategy.  In fact, your own calm and happy mood is very helpful for your stressed-out youngster – and terrific for you as well!

Specific Tools for Stress-Relief
Here are some more ideas for helping your child move stress out of his or her body:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep daily. Sleep can have a significant impact on a child’s stress levels.
  • Exercising, doing yoga or playing sports often. Exercise helps all organs and body systems function better, and contributes to improved digestion and fewer pain syndromes.
  • Eating the right foods. Some foods (like processed foods or foods that are high in sugar or trans fat) can cause an increase in stress levels. Other foods (like whole grains or foods high in fiber and vitamins) can reduce stress. In general junky foods contribute to stress, while healthy foods reduce stress. Make sure your child is eating nutrient-rich food as much as possible.
  • Learning breathing techniques and meditation. Many simple breathing techniques can work wonders for stress. One simple technique you can teach you child is to think the word “in” while breathing in and think the word “out” while breathing out. Encourage the child to practice this technique before taking tests and examinations, before falling asleep, when anticipating some sort of stressful event, when in the dentist’s chair, when getting a needle or other medical procedure, when feeling overwhelmed or when feeling upset. This form of breath work is simple enough that even young children can do it. Older kids and teens, however, will benefit the most since they will be able to identify innumerable occasions for its use. Paying attention to the in and out of the breath is as calming to the nervous system as an anti-anxiety drug and has no negative side-effects!
  • Relaxation and stress-reduction MP3’s. There are stress-reduction CD’s and MP3’s that are especially designed for children. There are many different kinds including guided imagery, progressive relaxation, mindfulness training and binaural beats. Sometimes the child will need to experiment to see which product is most helpful. However, if the child is willing to use one of these products on a very regular basis (i.e. daily), he or she will obtain great benefits.

Consider Teaching Your Child EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
This simple acupressure tool can knock stress and pain right out of the body. There are lots of internet resources for learning how to use EFT and there are also many mental health professionals who are trained in the technique. EFT is meant to be a self-help tool. Older kids and adolescents will find it to be an easy way to help themselves feel less tense, happier, calmer, less anxious and less stressed. All of this can help reduce stomach aches. Moreover, EFT provides pain relief. Therefore children can be taught how to use EFT to release pain quickly and easily all by themselves.

Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. There are different emotional issues that can lead to stomach aches. Sometimes a child is a perfectionist and really pushes him or herself in school. The remedy Rock Water will help him or her take a more relaxed, more balanced view of things. However, many other issues may be provoking stress: social rejection, too much schoolwork, fear of going away to camp, moving to a new house, dealing with a parent’s divorce and so on and so forth.  A Bach Flower Practitioner can help you pick the remedies that are most pertinent to your child’s situation. Meanwhile, here are some for you to consider: Agrimony (for a child who seems happy on the outside, but whose body carries the stress), Larch ( for fear of failing or other performance issues), Elm (for feelings of overwhelm), Mimulus (for fear and worry), White Chestnut (for repetitive thinking and obsessing over problems), Walnut ( for adjusting to change more easily). You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach mixing bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child four drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, midday, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the stress has dissipated. Start treatment again, if the stress returns. Eventually, the stress should diminish completely.

Other Considerations
Be careful not to accidentally reinforce sickness with too much attention.  Don’t give extra attention than normal to your child when he or she is feeling unwell. Give the sympathy and compassion necessary, but carry on with life as normal. Providing more tender attention in times of illness than in times of good health, can give your child the idea that being sick leads to more attention from you (and therefore he’ll enjoy being ill). Therefore, be careful to show tenderness and nurturing even when your child feels just fine! Then, when you help him or her through a tummy ache, it won’t seem like such a big treat that it’s worth being sick for.

Consider Professional Assessment
If your interventions have not helped sufficiently, consider setting up a meeting with a mental health professional for an assessment. Sometimes there is more going on than meets the eye and often, a trained professional can provide the best help.