Anxiety feels like an epidemic. It’s one of the most common mental health concerns for both children and adults.
Up to 20% of children and teenagers will experience anxiety!
It’s perfectly normal for anyone to experience anxiety occasionally. It serves a purpose by putting us on high alert, protecting us from danger. Small doses of anxiety can be helpful, but when your child is worrying, avoiding activities they usually love, or is upset about going to school because they’re worried, anxiety has become a problem.
How do you know when kids are anxious?
Anxious kids are often very compliant and well behaved children, so it can be easy to miss that they’re struggling on the inside. Unfortunately anxiety can lead to depression, increased risk of substance abuse, and missed social and career opportunities.
To make it even harder to recognize, children typically won’t label how they’re feeling as anxiety!
It’s hard for them to equate their symptoms as being nervous or anxious. Instead they might describe it as:
You often hear people saying “children are resilient”. You have no doubt witnessed it for yourself, but we must also be aware that generalizing and using this thinking to minimize the effects of trauma on our kids can be harmful for them.
It’s not only military personnel in conflict zones that experience trauma. It can also result from general threats to someones wellbeing or development. Clinical Counsellor Andrea Chatwin frames it as: “Trauma is any event that is unexpected and makes a person feel confused, overwhelmed and powerless”. One out of seven to ten children in the general public have experienced trauma!
Trauma can either be a one-off event like witnessing violence or an incident of bullying, or it can be more complex and long term. It could be the child was neglected by important people in their life at a developmentally vulnerable time. It could also mean the loss of a birth parent, experiencing multiple caregivers, or the loss of a pet.
"Trauma can affect brain development in children"
Complex trauma can affect brain development in children at a time when the human brain is developing faster than any other period of life. Stress and fear can cause different neuro-pathways in the brain to be strengthened and result in a very different brain structure to that of a child who has not experienced trauma. You can’t expect a child who has experienced trauma to react in the same way as a child who has not!
If your child has experienced trauma, they may have a hard time falling asleep, and/or wake every couple of hours looking for comfort. It might affect their relationships, causing them to have a hard time getting along with family or friends, and they might also avoid people, places and things that remind them of what happened. You might also expect a regression in their development with a return to bed-wetting or thumb sucking, changes in appetite, or a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
The effects of complex trauma on your child’s development can be:
If trauma changes the structure of your child's brain, healing will take patience, understanding and an awareness of the gut-brain axis to heal it.
If you are patient, a stable environment can help your child build new neuro-pathways through neuroplasticity, which means their brains can heal and re-wire themselves!
It is distressing as a parent when your child is diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. You will find yourself navigating antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications, as well as exploring things like therapy and in-school supports.
There’s one other area that’s worth looking into which is supported by a growing body of research. Micronutrient support (otherwise known as nutritional supplementation) provided through Truehope EMP™, appears to have therapeutic benefit for children with psychiatric illness.
Eleven previous reports have shown potential benefit of Truehope EMP for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms in adults, and researchers have been asking if it might also work for children.
In one study “Feasibility of a Nutritional Supplement as Treatment for Pediatric Bipolar Spectrum Disorders” published in 2012, noted a 37% decrease in depression scores and a 45% decrease in mania scores in children while taking Truehope EMP.
anxiety disorder (GAD), Prader-Willi Syndrome depression, anxiety, and rage.
While a small study, significant improvements were found on:
Case studies of 2 medication-free boys with explosive rage and mood disorders at the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital found that symptoms increased when the micronutrient supplement was withdrawn, and improved when the supplement was introduced.
The noted improvements in:
At the time of publication of the cases studies, both boys had been stable on the nutritional supplement for over 2 years.
One of the major challenges with micronutrient support is actually taking the supplements. It can sometimes be challenging to convince your child to take them! If you’d like to try this approach with your child, experiment with smoothies as a way to make it easier, or consult with a nutritionist on ideas that will suit your child’s preferences.
A lot has changed in the last 20 years! We have evolved into a globalized, technology driven world. Twice as many children have cell phones now than in 2004. A whopping 88% of 13-17 year olds have access to a cell phone! For better or worse, childhood is a vastly different experience than what it used to be.
This rise in screen time has led to a decline in exposure to nature and outdoor physical activity. These days, we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors. Not only is this affecting our quality of life, but our children’s health too. According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, “Our disconnection from nearby nature is a prime reason for the declining state of human health, both mental and physical”.
For children, being outdoors offers unstructured play time, and gives simple things like flowers, sticks, rocks, earth, water, trees, and insects the opportunity to trigger their imagination. There are now over 500 research studies showing that access to nature is essential for healthy kids. When they can connect to nature on a daily basis, it positively affects their social, psychological, academic, spiritual, and physical health by:
The studies show that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development, with it’s restorative effects stretching far into adulthood. Of course, exposure to nature and the outdoors is highly beneficial to adults too, so why not join your kids?
You can find ways to explore nature as a family, and see what is available within easy reach of your home. It could mean getting involved in a community garden, or heading to the park and keeping your eyes out for signs of wildlife like birds, racoons, mice, and edible fruits and plants. You can even become weekend warriors and discover your local Provincial and National Parks!
Think it’s not possible in an urban environment? We’ve spied dinosaur kale in flower beds in downtown Toronto, and blackberries in hidden corners of urban parks. It’s there for you to find! You can even get things started by putting window boxes in your home, or potted plants on your apartment balcony.
Children are healthier and happier when they can be outdoors and have chances for unstructured play. Plus, the more our children experience nature, the more they will love and care for it for the health of future generations.
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We want to provide nothing but the highest quality information and advice for our followers to improve their health, which is why at Truehope Canada, we're happy to say our writer is a Certified Life Coach and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.