Whenever something is “wrong” with a child, we often look straight to the parents. For example, if a child is overweight, we’re quick to conclude that those parents aren’t monitoring their child’s eating habits or ensuring that he gets enough daily exercise.
And that may be the case. But there are other reasons that contribute to a child’s weight problem—and they have nothing to do with parenting. Here are three other factors:
1. Some kids’ lower centers of the brain never finished developing when they were babies. In such case, they may not get the message that they are full after they’ve eaten since that feedback is an automatic function of a fully developed midbrain. So imagine trying to control your weight when you’re always hungry.
2. Some kids have poor sensory processing, and that makes them feel as though they’re living life on a tight rope. When our senses work as intended, we feel secure when we move. However, if not, we may dread even the slightest movement. No surprise that such kids aren’t eager to play soccer or sign up for gymnastics or engage in any other kind of exercise.
3. Some kids have a virus that has recently been linked to obesity. A new study by a researcher at the University of California suggests that childhood obesity may be linked to adenovirus36. In the study, 78% of the children who tested positive for the virus were also obese.
And then, what if a child eats junk food, doesn’t exercise, and has one or more of the above going on? Maybe all those factors, together, explain the rise in childhood obesity.
The bottom line: It may take more than just a change in eating habits and an increase in exercise for kids to be healthy and fit.
If you’re a parent of a child with life-threatening reactions to food, you’re keenly aware that ordinary events such as birthday parties and cafeterias can quickly turn into a medical emergency.
Here’s how you can help others help your child.
1. Tell everyone what your child cannot eat.
While we don’t think of food being offered at places such as karate or piano lessons, you never know. So don’t leave anyone off the list. Create a sheet that identifies your child’s restricted food and what to do if he accidentally ingests it.
2. Don’t assume your child will refrain from eating the restricted food.
Again, at our center, we had a child once tell us, “I am going to die now because I just ate some peanuts.” After a few panicking moments, we knew she was okay since she was talking and breathing normally, and there were no signs of anaphylactic shock. Turns out that it was another type of nut that she could not eat, but clearly, this child had gone ahead and eaten something she thought was bad for her.
3. Don’t expect your child to know what to do if she accidentally ingests a restricted food.
When we relayed to the mother of this same child what had happened, she assured us that her daughter’s medicine had been right in her backpack all along—had she actually eaten the nut she was actually allergic to. Really? She expected a nine-year-old girl to what? Go to her backpack and administer a shot while she was in the throes of an allergic reaction? And recall, that’s not what her daughter did when she thought she had eaten the restricted food.
4. Establish a “no sharing food” rule for your child.
Make sure your child and your child’s friends know and honor this rule at all times.
5. Educate others that children can have adverse reactions just by smelling or touching the restricted food.
This means adults must also pay attention to what’s being used in arts, crafts, and science projects.
When it comes to fatal food allergies, parents of such children can’t afford to be anything but proactive. The more people understand how they can help prevent adverse reactions, the safer such kids will be.
Many of us have probably spent time with one or more kids with serious, possible fatal, reactions to food—and did not even know it. Fortunately, no child has ever had a life-threatening reaction while I’ve been in charge. But had I known what I now know, some of my close calls would have never even happened.
So for anyone who is around children, here are some ways to ensure that no child has a reaction on your watch.
1. Don’t assume parents of kids with potentially fatal food reactions will tell you.
If you’re a parent, know whether any of your kids’ friends have allergies and what to do in case of a reaction. If you’re someone who works with kids, send home a questionnaire with the same questions.
2. If possible, reduce the chance of accidental ingestion by excluding common life-threatening allergens from group events.
This could be as simple as asking participants to forgo all nuts when making their dish for the potluck. Such a request not only reduces the possibility of accidental ingestion, but it’s a kind gesture that will be greatly appreciated by parents and kids who have to be vigilant about food choices away from home.
3. Remember that some kids are so sensitive that they can react to allergens in the air.
At our local Brain Highways Center, a child once had an adverse reaction to lingering peanut air molecules—even though she arrived at our center seven hours after a group of kids had made peanut butter clay that morning. After that, we decided that we’d no longer do anything—at anytime—with peanut butter at our center.
When you look at how little effort the suggestions above require—and how such simple actions can keep kids alive—it’s hard to justify glossing over them. For example, experts say that peanuts can kill an allergic person within three minutes after exposure either by ingestion or inhalation.
That’s why all of us have to do our part.
Part II: “How Parents of Kids with Fatal Food Allergies Can Help” will appear tomorrow.
A recent newspaper article reports that preschoolers watch as many as two hours of daily TV when they’re at home-based day cares. That means some preschoolers are watching twice as much TV as originally believed.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician, is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s not what parents signed up for. I’m not sure how many parents are aware of this.”
Really? It’s a shocking revelation that home day care providers place kids in front of a TV when parents admit their kids watch two to three hours of TV at their own homes?
If parents are truly just learning that TV time is part of their kids’ day care, how about switching to one that doesn’t allow it? If parents don’t want to do that, how about reducing the child’s TV time while at home?
In other words, parents have the power and responsibility to decide how much time their kids are in front of a TV. Such decisions take into account research that links excessive TV watching during preschool years with language delay, obesity, attention problems, and aggression.
Yet this really isn’t about TV’s adverse affects. There’s a bigger picture here. When we point at a day care provider or classroom teacher or someone else as causing a problem, we usually don’t move forward. On the other hand, when parents keep sight of who’s the captain of their ship, they never drift off course.
Is the H1N1 vaccine safe for kids? That’s usually the fear-based headline we see, and it’s intended to trigger a knee-jerk reaction from those for and against the vaccine. It’s also the kind of headline that sells a lot more newspapers than those that say: “An Analysis of the H1N1 Vaccine.”
Yet the cortex parent does just that. We begin this analytical process by temporarily forgetting everything we think we already know about H1N1. That way, we can truly be open to whatever information we acquire.
Next, we ask questions and seek answers to them from both sides. Since unbiased reporting is kinda rare today, we need to go to sources beyond the ones we ordinarily rely on. Otherwise, we’ll only likely get a diluted (at best) version of the “other side.”
Here are some possible questions when exploring H1N1 vaccine safety:
Once we’ve gathered all the information — from as many diverse sources as possible — we’re now ready to ask a question that’s more inclusive than just whether the H1N1 vaccine is safe for kids. Instead we ask: Which has more overall risk for my child: the H1N1 flu or the H1N1 vaccine?
Guess what? It’s very possible that parents from different families will come to opposite conclusions. But even thought their final answer may differ from each other, such parents still have this in common: Their decisions were based on solid cortical reasoning versus a fear-based reaction — and that’s always the goal of the cortex parent.