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The Dynamics of Children and School

2018.10.01 by

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classroom

Another school year for kids and parents, and we recognize the patterns and flow of school life. For young children this entails social interactions with friends, getting used to schedules, and becoming engaged in learning. This is such a complicated process filled with excitement, inspiration, and frustrations. It involves recognizing the priorities of academics, hobbies, activities, and relationships. And that’s just for those who are flowing well through the program of school. For many children, school is stressful or even painful. So many factors can be deterrents to engagement, especially for those children who find it difficult (or boring) to sit still at a confining desk for extended periods of time. For students who enjoy prolonged periods of quiet and focused attention, school can be a haven. Others may feel socially awkward, shy, or out of place. They may have other pressing interests besides the typical subjects taught in school. And a large percentage of children have high kinetic energy and difficulty remaining in one place for long. They function best through exploration of their environment and hands-on interactions. Unfortunately, they are often labeled as being distracted or disruptive. And some even get a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Others have completely different styles of relating to the world, and they get put on an autism spectrum or diagnosed with a condition such as Asperger’s syndrome.

Every child has a distinctive and individual style of learning that needs to be honored and respected. Every child has unique gifts and talents, and these may not fit easily into the mold of the school model. It falls upon parents to recognize and cultivate these gifts. All too often we focus on perceived weaknesses and faults, giving negative feedback and corrections, forgetting that children need love, nurturing, recognition, and encouragement. Many children see themselves as failing, not rising to expectations of their own or the adults around them. They see their interests and pursuits as private havens when they should actually be celebrated. It is often hard for us as parents to strike the balance between trying to keep kids on track in the grooves of schedules and schoolwork and actually enjoying life.

Here are some suggestions.

  • Have periodic conversations with children about their interests, whether those are music, video games, imaginative play, animals, or hobbies. Show your interest in their private pursuits. This points to the value of their inner life and can help to foster their passions.
  • Communicate with teachers about your child’s strengths and interests so that he or she can play to these strengths.
  • Avoid struggles over homework. You are not responsible for getting homework done. And keep in mind the myth of homework. Studies have shown that homework accomplishes very little. It creates conflict and tension in families and serves little positive purpose.
  • Enjoy your children. Cultivate your appreciation of their amazing personalities and talents.
  • Cultivate your own patience and forbearance. It may seem like your children are intent on driving you crazy, but they just want to have fun.
  • Children will actually learn responsibility without your nagging. They will learn how to get assignments turned in by the time they get to high school. They will learn that they need to show up for work once they are on their own. They will be fine. Let them learn.
  • Remember that life is fleeting. Teachers come and go. Struggles are inevitable and mean very little.
  • Pay attention to the moment. That’s where children live. Take them as your role models.
  • You may also want to review this article about recognizing your children’s strengths.

 

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Six Steps to Cure Your Baby’s Reflux and Colic

2018.07.24 by

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Mom-comforting-crying-baby1-400x280

Colic or reflux is characterized by prolonged crying, spitting up after feeding, arching the back, rumbling tummy, and expulsion of gas. Symptoms tend to be worse in the evening, after eating, and when lying down. Often these symptoms begin two to three weeks after birth and can persist for several months or sometimes even longer. The cause is usually a stressed digestive tract that has a hard time moving food through. When digestion is weakened, then food tends to get stuck or move back up into the esophagus. Your pediatrician may want to prescribe antacids or acid blockers, but these drugs are not especially effective and some babies have obvious side effects.

Here are some simple measures you can take to solve these bothersome symptoms.

  1. Avoid foods in your diet that pass through breast milk and cause or aggravate your baby’s symptoms. Some foods can trigger allergic reactions in your baby. Other foods can be irritants.

Dairy products

Eggs

Cabbage family foods (broccoli)

Beans

Coffee

Spices

Onions and garlic

  1. Give your baby a probiotic supplement that includes bifidus and lactobacillus species, at least 10-20 billion CFU. These healthy bacteria help digest food and decrease irritation in the small intestine lining. These can be mixed into some expressed breast milk.
  2. Chinese herbal formulas Grow and Thrive and Tummy Tamer by Chinese Medicine Works (available through any health care provider from KanHerb.com by prescription or online through several sources). These two formulas strengthen digestive function, soothe the lining of the digestive tract and promote healing of the small intestine lining.
  3. Glutamine powder mixed with breast milk (or formula) 1,500 mg. The amino acid glutamine heals the small intestine lining.
  4. Keep your baby close. Wearing your baby in a sling or front pack and wrapping your baby snuggly in a baby blanket (swaddling) are techniques that have been shown to relieve colic and crying. Prop your baby upright to allow gravity to help move milk through your baby’s digestive tract.
  5. Try using homeopathic Colocynth, especially if your baby is soothed by pressure on her belly. Just put one pellet of a 6, 12, or 30 strength inside your baby’s cheek as a dose. Other homeopathic medicines may be appropriately prescribed on the basis of differing and specific symptoms.

 

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Losing Weight Episode 2 – Diet

2018.07.18 by

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whole foods

In a previous article I talked about the metabolic factors involved with difficulty losing weight. Those include factors like thyroid function, leptin, insulin, and other hormonal balance issues that can all make it difficult to lose weight. Those interacting factors can be complicated and require a holistic medical evaluation. Dietary issues, however, are pretty simple. There are some basic principles to maintaining a diet that prevents weight gain.

What to eat

  1. Do not restrict calories. Eating a low calorie diet and skipping meals will just lower your metabolism. That will cause your body to burn less calories, exactly what you don’t want.
  2. Eat relatively low glycemic index foods. Some foods will stimulate more insulin production that encourages a cascade of factors that will store excess fat in your fat cells. Foods with a high glycemic index include, grains (especially wheat), potatoes, tropical fruits or dried fruits that are higher in sugar, and processed products with refined sugar. Eat all of these sparingly.
  3. Eat foods as they grow in nature. That includes fresh fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked), nuts and beans, and animal products (eggs, dairy, chicken, fish). Try to avoid packaged foods that contain with a long list of ingredients.
  4. Don’t avoid fats. Your body needs fats and cholesterol to make hormones. The best fats are butter, coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, avocados, and fish oil supplements. Try to avoid vegetable oils. Remember fats do not make you fat, excess carbohydrates make you fat.

How to eat

  1. Eat protein in the morning.
  2. Eat three meals a day. Don’t skip meals and leave space between meals. Try to avoid snacking on carbohydrates. If your blood sugar gets low and you start to feel tired or light-headed, then eat protein snacks.
  3. Don’t eat late at night. Leave 2-3 hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime. If you eat before sleeping when your metabolism slows down, that food will turn to fat. And often those late night snacks are also high in carbohydrates, making the problem even worse.

Attitudes

  1. Be kind to yourself. If you crave sugar and carbohydrates, there is a reason that needs to be addressed. It may be a problem with glucose metabolism, thyroid dysfunction, or insulin or leptin resistance. There are specific supplement programs that can help all of these issues. Don’t blame yourself for having weak will power.
  2. Be consistent. Establishing good eating habits will reinforce and establish healthy behaviors. Every day that you continue on a program will reinforce your confidence and determination.
  3. Don’t expect quick results. Fad diets and restricted diets will cause loss of fluid retention and some quick weight loss, but you will gain back that weight again and become frustrated. Do not attempt extreme diets (like the ketogenic diet). If you maintain these for a while you may lose weight, but if you go off the diet the rebound effect may leave you with more weight than when you began.
  4. Stay positive. Losing weight is a gradual process. But once you are more healthy and fit, you will feel better and your cravings will decrease.
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Losing Weight (Metabolism)

2018.06.28 by

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Losing Weight

Shedding pounds and losing fat is not simple. It requires a holistic view of an individual’s needs. First, let’s dispel the most frustrating myth. Reducing calories will not result in persistent weight loss. Here’s the reason. A reduction in caloric intake gives your body the message that food is scarce. The natural response to this situation is to slow down the metabolism to conserve energy. That is exactly what you don’t want. The slower your metabolism, the harder it is to lose weight. And if you are having trouble losing weight, your metabolism is probably already slow for other reasons.

There are three components necessary to lose weight and remain fit: eat a healthy diet, increase metabolism, and develop a regular exercise program. All three of these components are intimately linked and affect each other. The bottom line is to solve the problem of a slow metabolism and maintain a healthy diet that does not encourage weight gain.

Metabolism

Thyroid hormone

Let’s talk about metabolic issues first. The most common cause of weight gain (besides eating too many carbs) is a medical problem that slows metabolism. Hormone imbalances can contribute to a slow metabolism. The most common of these is low thyroid function. Doctors will do a blood test for thyroid function, but the most common screening tests (TSH and T4) are often normal despite a low thyroid condition. It is important to obtain a full range of thyroid function tests, especially a reverse T3 test and thyroid antibodies. Here’s the issue. T4 is converted to active T3, but it can also be converted to reverse T3, which is inactive. It does this especially when the body is under stress. High levels of reverse T3 indicate a slow metabolism with relatively low active thyroid hormone production. It’s important to get that level as low as possible. If you feel tired and gain weight easily, then low thyroid is a likely culprit, despite a doctor’s assurance that your thyroid hormone (T4) level is normal. Chronic inflammation, infection, and stress can all cause low thyroid function too, and that means a slower metabolism.

The other common metabolic problems associated with weight gain are insulin resistance and leptin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when people eat too many carbohydrates for too long a time. Carbohydrates (sugars) stimulate insulin production, and that triggers storage of sugar in fat cells for energy reserves. But when the body’s cells say they don’t need more sugar, the insulin receptors shut down. This is insulin resistance. Insulin is still produced in response to carbohydrates in the diet, and insulin levels remain high. One effect of elevated insulin levels is an increase in the size of fat cells.

The second problem is leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that increases metabolism and decreases appetite. When the fat cell has enough potential energy storage as fat, leptin tells the brain to stop eating and to increase the use of fat stores for energy use. But as the full fat cells continue to produce leptin, the brain stops listening. That’s leptin resistance. As a result metobolism slows down and we continue to eat, both of which lead to more fat storage.

Other hormonal systems that are out of balance can also slow metabolism. Adrenal stress, adrenal fatigue, low cortisol levels, and low sex hormones can all affect metabolic rate. Understanding all of these problems can help determine an appropriate treatment program for weight loss. And all of these medical problems can be treated with specific nutritional supplements and herbs.

Supplements

Taking supplements that suppress appetite and speed up metabolism can be helpful, but addressing the hormonal issues we discussed is a key factor to designing an individualized treatment plan. For example, depleted adrenal or thyroid function will respond to herbs that tonify those glands, as well as supplements that provide building blocks for those hormones. Specific nutrients can help resolve insulin and leptin resistance, including chromium, berberine, zinc, selenium and others. Treating underlying and persistent inflammatory processes with turmeric (curcumin), anti-inflammatory herbal formulas can address the causes of thyroid problems. And immune system disorders including autoimmune thyroid problems can be treated with adaptogens that balance immune function (especially medicinal mushrooms). And of course maintaining adequate vitamin D levels with vitamin D supplementation is essential.

(To be continued)

 

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Encourage Children to Become Experts

2018.05.15 by

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Autistic pianist

Success

Children love to succeed, especially in activities they find compelling. That experience of success creates a desire for exploration and further discoveries. And eventually those successes lead to a level of expertise that is especially rewarding. The fuel that paves the path to expertise is passion.

Talents

Every child has particular innate skills and talents. There is a huge range of diversity of talents, and often children need to do a lot of exploring to discover their areas of interest. It is a parent’s job to identify those natural skills and encourage them, and parents can often recognize particular interests from an early age. It may be music or sports or art or an academic subject. It may be a particular topic, like spiders or dinosaurs. It may be a particular medium, like clay or photography. Parents can pick up on these interests and make space for children to explore them. In a previous article I talked about identifying strengths in children. The purpose of all this attention to skills, talents, and strengths is for children to experience success and the self-confidence that comes from doing something really well. When that success comes from self-motivation, then the rewards are far reaching.

Mastery

Once children identify an area that interests them, then they can learn on their own, and with the help of enrichment, teachers, and mentors they can eventually develop mastery. If it’s an interest in nature, animals, or art they can explore those areas themselves and parents can join in the fun. They can learn how to garden or draw or sculpt with a few supplies. They can learn about airplanes or dinosaurs from books, videos, and exploring the Internet. Museums, libraries, and field trips can be especially enriching for kids with a particular fascination. Children with a gift in motor skills and a dream of becoming a sports star will need coaches and teams and a lot of parent involvement. Musical talent will require lots of encouragement and lessons and practice.

The value of all this activity and pursuit in a particular area is that children learn how to study one thing in great depth. If they become an expert in identifying insects or sports figures, then those research methods can be applied to history projects and physics problems. An early interest in a musical instrument can lead to a college major and a career in musicology or on a concert stage. The skills they develop in exploring their own passions will generalize to many other areas of life. Their ability to probe the depths of their chosen field will allow intense involvement and deep understanding of other topics later in life too.  Expertise gets kids respect from adults, accolades from peers, and a big chunk of self-worth.

If you want your kids to be self-confident, self-reliant, and excited about learning, then identify those talents and encourage those interests. No matter what kinds of learning disabilities or physical disabilities children might have, they can develop mastery and it will serve them very well.

(The photo is Matt Savage, an accomplished and autistic jazz musician)

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