A Healthy Child Has A Happy Brain
Written for the Bermuda Parent Magazine – Digitally Published on November 29th, 2022
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Crying all the time. Worrying about the smallest things. Bouncing off the walls. Having trouble keeping still. And let’s not talk about the angry outbursts. Well actually, let’s talk about it. Anger, excessive worrying, emotions that are all over the place, hyperactivity & difficulty concentrating are all signs your child’s brain needs help. Your child needs you to understand what’s really going on inside their beautiful brain. As a parent of three young kids, it became very clear to me that nobody is going to care for your child like you. Not the teacher; Not the Pediatrician; Not the Pastor. Don’t get me wrong there are lots of people who care and want to lend their support. However, as parents we spend the most time with our kids; and we experience them and know them better then they know themselves (especially in the early years). That’s why it’s up to us to recognize when our kids are struggling and when to intervene to help them to thrive.
We all want the best for our kids, we all want to see our kids thriving as functional adults and contributing to our community. The problem is kids don’t come with an operating manual, and we often have no clue how to take care of these little bodies. It’s a wonder we get to leave the hospital with them after they are delivered. And take no offense to this, because as board-certified pediatrician you would have thought that I knew everything I needed to know about babies and children. I didn’t! It wasn’t too much later that I found out that I was just as clueless as most parents. That’s why I can easily say that my last 9 years enrolled in Parent-versity has been by trial and error.
There is hope though, my mistakes can be your gains. Which is why it want you to know these 5 tips to helping your child’s brain to thrive. First, it’s important for you to know what signs to look out for that suggest your child needs more help with their brain health. A healthy brain makes for a happy child. Signs to watch out for in your child. Irritability, poor eye contact, restlessness, poor sleeper, temper tantrums, difficulty following instructions, quick to argue or fight, crying, moodiness, fearful, anxious, difficulty learning and delays in development like slow to walk, slow to talk, hearing issues, poor handwriting. If your child is experiencing any of these, let me remind you quickly that you and your child are beautiful, and their brain can improve and heal.
Here are the tips I wish knew when I first took my oldest daughter home.
1) Sleep is Important – If your baby or child is not sleeping then you need to focus on improving sleep quality for your child and your family. Avoid things that interfere with sleep like night lights that emit blue light; Wi-Fi Radiation that decreases melatonin levels. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, and you need it to get good sleep. Light from screens like iPads and TV; give off blue light which also lowers melatonin levels. Also be conscious of what your child is watching; fast moving content with lots of flashing can increase hyperactivity. Kids also can have issues like Sleep Apnea that isn’t necessarily related to being overweight. If a child has an under-developed jaw or large tonsils, they can stop breathing for short periods while they sleep. Your child’s doctor or dentist can help arrange a sleep study if you/they suspect this of your child. If you don’t know where to start consider working with a sleep coach.
2) Get Your Child Moving – It’s as simple as getting your child outside to play. And Yes, I’m a mother so I know that with the pull of TV and Screens it is getting to be easier said than done. This is where organized activities, extracurriculars and clubs come in. They create great distractions, help your child’s physical health and mental health. If the activity is outside such as football, running club or tennis; it’s even better. Work with your child, figure out their interests. I recommend (depending on their age) they get involved in 1-3 activities.
3) Smile With Your Child– Sounds silly but kids who experience more love and laughter in their homes thrive more. Do things that will both make you smile and laugh. Play music, sing songs, make up a silly dance, play cards, build blocks or a wacky train track, share silly jokes. No one will judge. Laugh until your child’s face hurts or has happy tears.
4) Make Sure Your Child Is Doing the Do, by that I mean Pooping! – We all should be pooping every day. Pooping is your child’s body’s way of getting rid of waste and toxins. Toxins can build up in the body and in your child’s brain if they are not pooping. Make talking about pooping a normal thing. Encourage and praise daily bowel movements. One poop a day can really keep the doctor away. It’s not normal to not poop every day; even if you are not an everyday pooper and your mother wasn’t either. Break the trend, add in more fruit and vegetables, consider prune juice if you have too. Rubbing magnesium lotion on your child’s belly, is one of my favorites.
5) Finally # 5 Go Slow. – Healing a toxic brain can take time. Pace yourself, action one tip at a time. One thing about children’s brains is that they are very resilient. Simple steps can yield big changes. Having an awareness is an important key. If you are looking for more information on things, you can do to help your child’s brain further. I highly recommend reading Anthony William’s book The Brain Saver.
In health and happiness,
Dr. Peets Talbot