Imagine this scenario: you’re 5 years old and getting ready for your first piano recital. Your parents are so excited, but you feel completely nervous and could vomit at the thought of getting up on stage. An hour before your recital, your heart is racing, palms are sweaty, you’re curled up in a ball, and you don’t want to go! What could possibly help with this situation? A naturopath’s answer to this question: a holistic approach to this unique child’s needs!
While stress is a normal part of our everyday life- we can still teach our children to understand their experience of stress and learn to manage it. Whether your child is dealing with daily nervousness, general anxiety, or a phobia, preparing your child to cope with stressors, and validating their feelings builds their skill set for emotional regulation. Oftentimes, children find ways to cope with stress on their own: such as sucking on a thumb, attachment to a toy, eating, screen time, etc. In this article, I’ve outlined a few healthy strategies to consider when helping your child calm their nerves and stress.
1. Balanced Diet
Ensure that your child’s blood sugar levels are being managed adequately. This means avoiding processed sugar, sodas, concentrated juices and reducing white bread, pasta and pastries. Always include a protein/ fat in every meal. Include lots of foods rich in magnesium such as greens, legumes, nuts and seeds. If your child has longstanding digestive symptoms- consider doing an IgG food test with a Naturopathic Doctor to determine food intolerances- as food allergies can impact mood & behaviour.
2. Deep Breathing
As a mother to a 4-year-old, I’ve learned first hand that it’s never to early to teach deep breathing to a little one. Around the age of 2, I started to teach my daughter “balloon breathing”. Taking a deep breath to pretend you are blowing up a gigantic balloon. Teaching a child to deep breathe will allow them to start using these techniques during times of stress. Once practised a few times, you can give them cues during a tantrum or moment of anxiety- such as, “try your deep breathing to see if it helps”.
Specific points along Chinese/ or Ayurvedic meridian lines can be helpful to calm overactive nerves. Teaching an older child to self-massage an area maybe a helpful way to get them engaged in self-regulation. Try applying pressure to Heart 7- a calming acupressure point located on the pinky side of the wrist, under the base of the palm.
4. Cranial Sacral/ Osteopathic Treatments
Receiving treatments to support nervous system relaxation can help a child to alleviate tension held in their body. Cranial Sacral Practitioners can offer gentle and effective treatments for your child and results may include improved sleep, mood, concentration, digestion, and more.
Model your best skills for stress- management to your children. Reflect on your own temperament and strategies of self-care. See a Naturopathic Doctor to have lab work performed on your cortisol levels and appropriately support your adrenal function. Moreover, as parents- we can all do more learning and growth! Consider taking parenting classes via an organization such as Conscious Parenting– to impact your families’ overall wellbeing and emotional intelligence.
All children are unique and deserve individually tailored treatment plans that help them have concentration, calm and energy. Consider the above tips as a starting point to help your child develop stress- coping strategies that work for their unique circumstances. Naturopathic Medicine can offer herbs, nutrients and dietary plans to support your child’s overall health including mental and emotional wellness.