Parents often ask us pediatricians for our opinions on alternative medicine, or what is better known as “complementary” or “holistic” medicine.
We easily recognize children with speech and language difficulty because we hear them struggle. How do you recognize a child with a vision problem? Often, you can’t. Is it motor skills? Balance? Judgment, interest, personality, shyness? We hardly ever ask – is it vision?
The same is true as infants, toddlers and preschoolers mature into school age children. When they experience headaches, poor coordination, learning problems, carsickness, apprehension in sports, etc., the first question that comes to mind is rarely, “Could this be a vision problem?” But often, it should be.
While consistent routines, good nutrition and quality parent-child interaction time are important, the value of outdoor motor play should be noted, as it leads to positive outcomes. While it may seem counterintuitive, children’s brains are in a better state to focus and pay attention when they engage in running, jumping, bouncing, swinging, climbing, spinning and other movement activities. Physical activity leads to greater learning opportunities.
With our children facing obesity rates of 24 percent – higher than the national average – it is critical that families have places for kids to be physically active, and our regional recreation sites offer great ways to keep our kids moving.
Start a conversation. “Did you suffer from postpartum depression? Or know someone who did?” Break the silence. Talk about it. Reach out to new parents, share your experiences and let them know they are not alone. By starting the conversation, you will also reach a new level of healing.
Volunteer. We are fortunate to live in a community with access to resources for new parents, particularly those struggling with prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety. In Lane County, we have WellMama, a nonprofit organization offering free support services. WellMama, and other organizations like it, can only thrive with help from volunteers. Even if you have just five minutes to give this month, you can post flyers, write a thank-you card to a donor or participate in a focus group.
Donate. Funding for maternal mental health services is scarce and inadequate. Nonprofit organizations rely on donations to sustain basic services that support men and women in our community.
Join us. Participate in community events throughout the year to raise awareness about maternal mental health.
Much data shows that parenting education works:
Readiness for kindergarten is enhanced when parents learn how they can support their child’s healthy development.
Parenting education helps prevent child abuse and neglect, and associated concerns like teen pregnancy, delinquency and substance abuse.
Prolonged activation of the stress response in children can have damaging effects on the development of the brain. The stress hormones that flood the brain during prolonged stressful periods can affect the development of brain cells and connections between them, the size of certain brain areas and, ultimately, development of healthy brain architecture. Because these brain areas are important for learning, memory, and emotional processing, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to problems with thinking, memory, and emotional processing as well as increased risk for later health problems.
If parents are not proactive in addressing their own stress, they might unknowingly overlook the signs and symptoms of stress in their children. There is a danger in this, as young people are then left unsupported in identifying stress, and without the necessary tools and resources to manage it in a world where stress is escalating.
Our most lasting gifts come from how we are raised by our parents. Parenting Now! , formerly Birth To Three, asked community members to reminisce about their upbringing. Here are excerpts from their responses.
“Born in 1930 just as the Depression was descending on almost all families, I know my parents had a difficult time running a small business and raising my brother and me. Despite the times, my parents were always upbeat. I learned that money was not important, but behavior was. Good manners were insisted on and doing what is right and fair was firmly embedded in our psyches.”
The research can help us understand how a baby’s mind is formed and what we can do as parents to help our children be their best. Much of this research supports what many parents already do: read to their children, talk with them, interact with them. Some of the research tells us how to do these things better; how to ask questions and engage our children with the written words in ways that increase their understanding and brain development.