How Well Is Your Child Handling Their Stress?

by
Dr. Ariel Thorpe

Adults know stress well but what about kids? At Atlas we care for entire families, including babies, kids, and adolescents. It’s during these vital early years that providing chiropractic care can be instrumental in managing the effects of stress. But how do kids express stress in the first place?

The effects of stress can manifest in kids through a variety of conditions:

  1. Nocturnal enuresis, commonly known as bedwetting, can be the result of stress. Remember that for kids, a seemingly small event - whether emotional or a tumble - can trigger a stress response.
  2. School stress, even as early as transitioning from kindergarten to year 1, is a source of stress for kids in Hong Kong.
  3. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use begins by age 13 in a third of Hong Kong adolescents. Stress associated with drug use can be a catch-22, as the initial use may be an attempt to mitigate stress but the chemical stress of drugs creates substantial health issues, causing more stress. Studies have found correlations between use of these drugs and lack of secure parental attachment.
  4. Childhood eczema in Hong Kong Chinese kids is even linked to a mother’s stress levels during pregnancy.  
  5. Asthma in Chinese kids has been strongly associated with parental stress and air pollution.

While these symptoms and conditions may seem like stand alone problems for kids, chiropractors often find that kids with these issues have vertebral subluxations interfering with their nervous systems’ ability to communicate with the rest of the body. When the spine is moving well and in good alignment, kids’ bodies do a remarkable job of self-correcting and healing, leading to the resolution of a host of symptoms.

Of course it’s not enough to only deal with a condition once a kid is in a highly stressed state. In addition to getting babies and kids checked by a chiropractor, the stressor itself must be identified and handled. Ideally it can be eliminated, but if it is unavoidable then it’s up to the family to find the support and tools to manage it. Especially in situations where the child is showing symptoms or has a condition that is linked to maternal and/or paternal stress, it is essential that parents also start implementing their own stress management techniques. The following are helpful for childhood stress:

  1. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation. Especially now in the era of Zoom, many guided meditations are available online. Some children may find lying or sitting still a challenge in the beginning, in which case start with mindfulness practices while moving. Encourage the child to start and finish one task before switching to another. Ask the child questions - and listen to their answers - about the immediate activity to keep their attention focused on the present moment.
  2. Creating art. Providing the space, time, and art materials can move a child’s mind into a place of exploration and communication. Some kids are more visual, especially as they are still learning to write and speak.
  3. Open communication. Ask kids what is going on in their lives. Create a daily ritual of spending time together as a family, perhaps at a meal time. The earlier a family can implement this routine the better so that as the child grows up, they already have the support system in place.
  4. Limit screen time. Aside from essential educational activities, start tracking and reducing screen time. Is the tablet, phone, or computer essential to their development or is it a substitute nanny? Using devices is becoming an epidemic in young people as chiropractors are seeing degenerative changes in spines earlier and earlier, resulting in more corrective chiropractic care. The easiest - and cheapest - way to avoid this is to reduce time allowed slumped over a device, which creates undue strain on the spine and nervous system.

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