Kids Out of Balance
|Kids Out of Balance|
Today’s parents are special. We have to be—we are raising children in a very different world. As my mother likes to remind me, “Things aren’t the way they used to be.” She’s right. Look around: They aren’t.
Food is injected and sprayed (funnily, so are many of our celebrity idols!). Water is laden with chemicals, as are many of the products we use, from deodorants and shampoos to furniture and paint. There are many stressors accompanying our modern lifestyle, and parents are right to be alarmed because children are particularly vulnerable to them. From conception onward, these stressors have a compound effect. The result may be a child who is immune-challenged, who struggles to learn, to interrelate, and to be truly healthy.
If you feel overwhelmed by the effort needed to keep abreast of these health threats, the good news is that it is now easier than ever to access up-to-date information and tools to strengthen your family’s health. By understanding and reducing stressors, you can help your child avoid illness, alleviate symptoms, and encourage optimal body functioning for all of life’s stages. An informed parent is an empowered parent, so here are some ideas to help you ensure a greater quality of life for your family.
“The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.” —NEWTON D. BAKER
What Does It Mean to Be Truly Healthy?
Before we explore ways that we can keep our kids in balance we need to consider what it means to be truly healthy and “in balance.” Many of us are socialized into not considering our health until symptoms appear. We believe, “If I feel well, I must be healthy; if I feel sick, I must be unwell.” We lead such demanding lives that when a headache, cold or backache arises we opt for the quickest and easiest remedy: drugs. While there is always a place for drugs and surgery, our “there’s a pill for every ill” mantra doesn’t address why we are experiencing the symptoms in the first place.
Ask yourself: If a person in pain takes a pill and the pain then goes away, does this mean he or she is healthy again? Of course not. Symptoms are a message from our body that there is a problem and that change is needed. A true indicator of health is when the body is able to effectively adapt to the stressors placed on it.
So many children today are super-sized, chronically unwell, depressed or unable to concentrate. Indeed, our youth are not coping with the stressors of the modern world. It’s important we explore ways to help them be healthier, more resilient and empowered for a brighter future.
This begins with asking good questions. As a parent, we can usually sense when something is not quite right with our child. If this is your hunch, then it’s important you ask: Why is my child chronically unwell? Why is he constipated? or Why can’t she concentrate?
We can look to nature for inspiration. Take a moment to imagine the approach biologists might take if a certain region of a rainforest died. Would they simply remove the dead trees and replant vegetation? Or would they investigate what had caused the destruction? If all the fish in a particular lake were found to be dying or have deformities, would biologists and wildlife experts simply prescribe medication for the fish? No, that would be illogical. They would examine what caused the imbalance in the environment. They would look at the ecosystem and consider all the factors that sickened the fish, and then set about eradicating these factors and implementing strategies to recreate homeostasis or balance.
Now imagine a child who behaves aggressively. How would health experts tackle this problem? Is it logical to offer him medication for behavioral issues, or do we serve this child better by investigating the foods he is eating and his hydration levels, considering whether he is over-stimulated by electronic gadgets and computers, and assessing his nervous system and communication between the gut and the brain?
The human body is remarkable, and when it is functioning and coordinating itself well it has the capacity to heal and regenerate. If we can teach our children that health comes from within and that their bodies have tremendous intelligence and capacity to ward off illness, then early warning signs like a runny nose or a sore throat will not be seen as a signal to take antibiotics, but rather as an indication that they need to slow down, get lots of rest and boost their immunity with natural foods. Drugs are not always the answer. There are safe and effective approaches and holistic health practitioners who can empower us to navigate our family’s health outcomes.
“Our chief want in life is somebody who can make us do what we can.” —RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Signs of a Body out of Balance
As parents it is important that we observe our children to see that they are integrating their world in an ageappropriate manner. An imbalance can be indicated in a variety of ways. A baby, for example, may cry or fuss during feeding and arch her back. Her head may be an uneven shape, or she might not like lying on her tummy. Becoming familiar with the expected developmental milestones will help you assess whether your baby or child’s behavior is problematic or not. (For further information, please refer to my book Ticklish: New Ways to Help Your Child Learn, Love & Play at ticklishbook.com.)
For older children, some warning signs of a body out of balance may be:
Slow recovery from minor illnesses, and recurring colds, flus and allergies
Poor balance and coordination
Inability to concentrate
Oversensitivity to environmental noises
Eczema, pale skin, discoloration under their eyes
A bloated tummy, constipation
Defiant or angry behavior
Consistently low mood, lack of enthusiasm for life
Fatigue upon waking, general sluggishness
What Moves a Body out of Balance?
Think of your brain as a computer and the nervous system as its hard drive. Your brain coordinates, via your nervous system, every function in your body including breathing, digestion, thought processes, and healing. Nerve messages (in the hard drive) can become impaired or blocked by spinal or vertebral subluxations which occur when there are misalignments of one or more bones of the spine. This results in altered joint motion and nerve irritation, which lessens nerve communication, organ function and general health. The longer the subluxation exists, and the more severe it is, the more profoundly “disorganized” the body becomes.
There are many physical, chemical and emotional triggers that may impact the nerve communication of the body and move a child’s body out of balance. Fortunately, there are also many ways we can combat the impact.
Trauma: Physical Stressors
I recently watched a heart-warming TED talk in which the speaker, Shawn Anchor, recounted a personal childhood story. At the age of 7, when entrusted to play “nicely” with his 4-year-old sister (he suggested playing “combat”), she fell off the top bunk bed and plummeted to the floor on all fours. As the shock set in on her little face and the tears welled up, young Shawn racked his 7-year-old brain to save the day and said, “Amy, Amy, wait don’t cry! Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that! Amy… I think this means you are a unicorn.”
This story is a reminder of just how common knocks and falls are in childhood. It is estimated that by age 3, a child will have had three major falls—for example, off changing tables, out of a cot, or down a flight of stairs. Many infants land on their head multiple times during their first year; by the age of 7, a child may have fallen thousands of times.
The “bounce-back” resilience exhibited by children typically hides subtle damage that leads to poor postural and neurological function over time. Like the adage, “As the branch bends, so grows the tree,” each seemingly insignificant slip and fall adds up.
Physical stressors may impact the body even before birth. If a pregnant mother’s pelvis is uneven, this impacts the position of the womb and ultimately a growing baby’s ability to move freely within the uterus. Movement within the womb is vitally important as it stimulates the development of the brain, as well as the nervous and vestibular systems. In fact, the primitive brain requires movement in the womb to develop fully and a lack of mobility and in-utero constraint may be one contributing factor for a child experiencing learning difficulties.
Subluxations of the mother’s pelvis may arise from car accidents, falls or poor posture. Chiropractic adjustments during pregnancy help mothers feel more comfortable and mobile and encourage babies to move freely in the womb. Adjustments also encourage more straightforward births due to better alignment of the pelvis, abdominal muscles, and ligaments that hold the uterus and cervix in place. (For more information, please see Well Adjusted Babies, at welladjustedbabies.com.)
The birth process and medicalized births may also create tension within the baby’s spine, the skull and nervous system. Contributing factors include false labor, a long or very short labor, failure of the mother’s cervix to dilate, the use of drugs to increase contraction intensity, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps, caesarean section delivery, and the cord around the baby’s neck. Sometimes even straightforward vaginal births can create subluxations if the baby is unable to move into the ideal birth position and reduce stress on the spine.
This is why chiropractors recommend parents have their baby’s spine checked post-birth. When the nervous system is not functioning well it has the potential to affect the communication channels of the body and may impact all aspects of health, including neurological development, respiratory function and the baby’s capacity to sleep, breastfeed and digest milk. Chiropractors use specific techniques with children and tailor adjustments to the infant’s size and age.
Another physical stressor to consider is posture. Poor posture influences our nervous system significantly, adversely affecting our well-being, overall mood and ability to concentrate or work.
There is no doubt that children today need to be technologically skilled and that there are benefits to the appropriate use of electronic equipment. However, repetitive or prolonged postures while watching television and playing computer games can impact a developing spine. Furthermore, most children neglect to strengthen certain muscles as they grow and develop. It is important to stimulate the extensor muscles on the back side of the body, since they neurologically fire straight to the cerebellum and improve the way the brain works. Therefore, when young children have poor posture they may be at greater risk of poor neuromotor development. It is vitally important that children be physically active, engaging in sports and activities that strengthen their bodies, such as trampoline, gymnastics and swimming.