Our kids are the center of our worlds. As parents, we are always thinking about their latest milestones, their challenges, their accomplishments, their growth and a thousand other variables that go into them growing into well-adjusted, happy adults. Certainly at the top of most of our lists would be their health. Any parent knows that if your child is experiencing health problems, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or social, he or she cannot reach their fullest potential. Making the best choices for our children’s health is important to every parent and here is some advice on doing so:
Obesity is a huge epidemic in our country and one that is affecting more and more children. Obesity in children has a number of negative consequences that include bullying, self-esteem issues, future health implications and more. Bob Rauner, MD, MPH of Partnership for a Health Lincoln says, “People are designed to move and need a minimum amount of physical activity a day to remain healthy. There is a long list of health benefits ranging from maintaining a healthy weight, to better sleep, to fewer behavior problems, to increased attention span. There are now multiple articles linking physical fitness to improved academic performance on state math and reading tests. The detrimental effects of poor physical fitness on academics are almost as large as the effects of poverty.”
In our fast-paced, technology-based world, it’s no wonder that kids are opting more for the computers and television than the spirited outdoor play that used to keep older generations active and healthy when they were kids. Parents also tend to be busier these days and by the time they are done with their packed day of work, community involvement and other commitments, they may find they don’t have the time or energy to be active with their children. “Obesity rates are increasing due to a combination of too many calories being consumed and too few calories being burned off by exercise,” explains Dr. Rauner. This is a problem. Fortunately, there are solutions.
The best way to get kids to be more active is to get them involved in something that they enjoy that does NOT involve sitting on the couch or behind a computer screen. The benefits of exercise are almost too many to list, but a few of them include: having stronger muscles and bones, staying at or getting to a healthy weight, getting to be with friends or meet new people, enjoying yourself and having fun, feeling better about yourself, reduced risk of depression and sleeping well at night.
There are still plenty of activities out there that involve active participation with other children and that get your kids the physical exercise they need to stay healthy. Here are a few ideas:
Sports—Sports are still very much a part of many schools and getting your kids involved in one or more is a great way to encourage them to hang out with their friends in a beneficial environment. It also helps to teach them teamwork, good sportsmanship and discipline. Whether it’s basketball, football, volleyball, track or a more ‘non-traditional’ sport like golf or rugby, encouraging your kids to get on one of the school’s sports teams is a good way to improve their activity levels.
Lessons and classes—Maybe school sports are not for your child, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, just because they may have no interest in or talent for joining the basketball team, they may be a good fit for another activity outside of school. These could include karate lessons, cheer or dance lessons or joining a Little League team.
Play together— “Changing the lifestyle of the family is the best way to encourage kids to be healthy,” explains Monica Lieske of Lost in Fun. “Even if the parents are working all the time, they can still plan a fun, physical activity with their kids at least once a week. Lost in Fun is an indoor place for kids, parents, family and friends where they can all have fun in a healthy, physical way, no matter what the weather is like. They can jump, climb, run, laugh and share great moments with everyone while socializing with lots of other kids. By the time everyone leaves, they are exhausted and in a happy mood.”
“Reversing obesity will take a broad approach involving child care centers, schools, neighborhoods, parents, community groups, and businesses,” says Dr. Rauner. “Employers can play an important role by promoting a culture of wellness in their business. In addition to decreased absenteeism and increased productivity, healthy behaviors adopted by parents carry over to the family as a whole. There is room for optimism. Several communities across the country who have taken comprehensive approaches are showing success in reversing the obesity epidemic in children, including both Kearney and Lincoln, Nebraska. Learn more at healthylincoln.org.”
Non-Sport Related Classes or Lessons
“Music lessons are a great way to improve a child’s complete mental, physical and emotional health,” states Tim Woosley with Lincoln School of Music. “Playing an instrument such as a guitar or piano involves continuous study of the instrument and regular practice helps them improve and enjoy it. Studies have shown that the six-year-old who practices regularly on their instrument will end up being the 16-year-old student who does not need to be reminded to do their homework. The discipline of practice produces great habits that will help them later in life.
Emotionally, when someone becomes regularly involved with an instrument, they have a greater sense of accomplishment, confidence and joy. The piano or guitar can become an instrument of therapy. How many people have a rough day at work and wish to wind down? When playing an instrument, we tend to relax and recover from the stresses of life quicker.”
Tim continues by saying, “When it comes to choosing the right lessons for your child, keep these things in mind:
Make sure the child wants lessons. Too often we place our kids in activities because we see others do it or think they “need” the lessons for their development. But with an instrument, it is an emotional and financial investment. They should be asking you for lessons for a little while. It’s important to make sure they are ready to sit attentively in a lesson and be able to dedicate themselves to regular practice.
Let them pick the instrument, not you. Oftentimes, we hear that you should start on the acoustic guitar, for example. But if the child isn’t interested in acoustic music, their desire to learn may subside. Let them play an electric guitar if they want one. If you are concerned about noise, buy them some headphones to practice. Ahh…peace and quiet.
When you think about it, music is the one language we all speak fluently. I mean, not everybody loves baseball, ballet or science, but everybody loves music. And when you learn an instrument, you enjoy music on a different level, a more personal level.”
One of the problems with today’s kids is that they consume too many calories, and many of those calories come in the form of liquids such as pop or energy drinks. Dr. Rauner suggests that kids should, “Drink less pop and energy drinks, exercise more, drink more water and eat more fruits and vegetables. Although, unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The two simplest things for parents to do is to quit purchasing soda and energy drinks (if it’s not in the refrigerator, the kids won’t drink it) and limit kids’ screen time (no more than two hours a day).”
Adding some high quality nutrition into your kids’ diets is always a good idea. Sometimes it’s not easy to monitor their meals and make sure they are eating their fruits and veggies with every meal, especially if they are in school or you are at work during some of their meal times. That’s why you should consider a nutritional supplement, such as Vemma NEXT. “Vemma NEXT is ideal for children ages 2 to 12,” says Anne Cook. “It is the only children’s formula that contains Vemma’s clinically studied nutritional blend along with DHA (an omega-e fatty acid) known for brain and eye support, quercetin (a plant pigment) for added antioxidant power as well as a probiotic to help support digestive health.”
Dental health is very important to your child. He or she has probably been seeing a primary dentist since their very first teeth came in and should be getting regular check-ups with them. However, when a problem arises that your regular family dentist is not trained for, they may refer you to an oral surgeon. “We assist orthodontists in the exposure and repositioning or removal of impacted teeth,” explains Dr. Andrew Glenn. “Sometimes if a child’s mouth has enough crowding, teeth will get stuck in some goofy places. We see lots of third molars (wisdom teeth) in teenagers for the same reasons.”
Dr. Glenn’s advice is to take care of any dental problems as early as possible. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Ben Franklin famously said. I’ve found it is usually more difficult to remove or treat impacted teeth if they’re allowed to complete their development. It’s best to be proactive in a crowded mouth.”
Chiropractic care can help your children stay healthy from birth until adulthood, when many of them will decide to continue chiropractic care on their own because of the number of benefits.
“As a new parent, you want to make sure that your child is well taken care of,” explains Dr. Corey Dousharm with Mosier/Timperley Chiropractic. “That parental instinct kicks in and all focus is on the health and well-being of your newborn. Is he sleeping enough? Is she feeding alright? Why is he so fussy? These are all common concerns, all of which I deal with regularly in my office. If you think about it, the birth process is one of the most traumatic experiences you will go through in life, whether it’s normal vaginal delivery, forceps/vacuum delivery or C-section. Common issues to look for after birth that may indicate a subluxation (disturbance to the nervous system) in your child: inability to turn head to both sides, arching of the back when lying flat, difficulty latching when breast-feeding, chronic reflux (spitting everything up), and so many more. If left untreated, these issues can lead to other problems as the child grows.”
“Lately, I have been seeing more and more school age children with the starts of scoliosis and other postural issues,” she continues. “Many times this stems from carrying a backpack that is too heavy and improperly positioned on their misaligned spine. As a rule, I tell parents to keep track of how much their child is carrying. Backpack weight should be no more than 10% of your child’s weight. Another tip is when packing books inside, make sure that the heaviest items are held closest to the child’s back. This keeps the child balanced so that they are not constantly fighting against the bag to stay upright. Between the ages of 5-12 is usually the best time to access the spinal health of your child, as this is when the major curves of the spine are developing, and backpacks have a greater effect on them. Also, if your child is into athletics, such as football, gymnastics, volleyball, etc., they should have their spines checked. Hard hits in football, a fall on a neck in gymnastics, and a rough dive in volleyball can all cause subluxations in the spine, leading to pain, and improper muscle function. Many of the top athletes in the world utilize chiropractic care to stay at the top of their game!
Whether you have a newborn or a 10 year old, all children can benefit from regular chiropractic care. Feel free to bring them in for free spinal and postural exams to see how your child could benefit!”
Making sure your child sees a general doctor for scheduled well child check-ups, school physicals and anytime you feel they have an injury or illness that needs to be seen by a doctor is very important. Having a doctor that your child trusts and is not afraid of could have an effect not only on how willing they are to go to the doctor now, but could also affect their feelings about doctors for their entire lifetime. When choosing a doctor, make sure you ask your friends, co-workers and colleagues who they take their kids to and why. A good children’s doctor should listen to your concerns and take them seriously while easing your mind and reassuring both you and your child that they are in good hands. You should never feel coerced into getting your child medical care that you don’t feel they need and, on the opposite side, you should never feel like your concerns are being ignored.
Remember, the doctor you choose to take your child to is a personal choice and you can, at any time, decide to discontinue care and go to a different doctor.
“Since we live in a drive thru, instant coffee, fast lane culture, our kids’ health can easily take a back seat in the scheme of things,” says Tim Woosley. “But if we set the example for how our children should be healthy, then that will be all they know and accept it as normal. How do we do that? By becoming intentional with our family. Limit the fast food trips and leave healthy snacks in the car when you are out and about. Get on the floor and wrestle with your kids. They will love it and you will all benefit from the activity. Go for evening walks with the family and tell each other about you day. These things are not hard, yet we do not want to miss out on creating a positive lifestyle for our children. We all know that life goes fast. We blink and our infant is now graduating or getting married. So we must be as intentional as we can while we still have that influence.”
Our kids are the center of our universe and their health should always be on the top of our priority list. A truly healthy child is one who is emotionally, physically and mentally fit and there are plenty of resources out there to help a parent improve the health of their son or daughter.