I recently read a question from a confused parent in an online forum — a question regarding an issue many parents face. It seems a child was suddenly acting extremely emotional, overreacting to any and every situation. Suggestions ranged from medication to counseling, but the most common recommendations were simple: evaluate diet, exercise, and schedule.
When it comes to kids and teens, the same ideas are being rediscovered by secular psychologists and Christian leaders alike. Before we take more extreme measures in dealing with misbehavior or emotional outbursts, we really need to check make sure our kids’ basic needs are being met.
We’re not talking about anything extreme, here. You don’t have to count calories or eliminate all “easy meals” to make sure your child is generally eating healthfully.
Too much caffeine or refined sugars can cause depression-like symptoms, as well as hyperactivity. Certain artificial food dyes can adversely affect behavior, as well. Regular consumption of processed foods can leave us dragging — physically and mentally.
While diet affects an adult’s mental well being, it can influence the behavior of children and teens even more.
While some teens may prefer to hang out at the mall or play video games, some parents would rather have teens who study all the time. Whatever the reason, a sedentary lifestyle void of outdoor recreation and physical activity is not a good idea.
Exercise has been proven, again and again, to work as a natural anti-depressant, and outdoor activity can help squelch ADHD-like symptoms. When is the last time you sent your teen outside to play, or — better yet — went for a walk outside with them? For many teens, perhaps it really is that simple.
It’s no secret that most American adults over-schedule themselves and sleep far too little. And we’re passing that not-so-great legacy onto our kids. Many teenagers face sleep deprivation and other effects of over-scheduling. Depending on the research considered, teens need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to be at their best. Many are getting far less.
Teens certainly need to learn how to work hard and fulfill basic responsibilities, but they need some R&R as well. Part of a healthy lifestyle is knowing when and how to unwind and relax, and that’s something we need to teach our kids.
Could your teen’s emotional or behavior issues be caused by something more serious or complicated than needing a nap, some outdoor exercise, or a healthier diet? Perhaps. But until you address those basic needs, you simply won’t know. Making sure your teenager is developing healthy habits certainly won’t hurt. Even if further intervention is required, the symptoms will likely be lessened when you address these basic needs.