I am getting more and more questions about children who are struggling with their weight, their moods or with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Children are being put on very strong medications that have not been tested to determine if they are even safe for children.  Parents are staying up nights worrying about what to do with their children who are struggling.

I started out in Pediatrics but I did not complete my residency.  So I am NOT a Pediatrician.  However, I am  mother of three sons, one of whom suffered with severe depression as I wrote about in a previous blog.  I am also someone who has been trained in the effect of nutrition on behavior and mood.  So here are my thoughts:

  1. Food should be the first medicine used to treat any of these disorders – especially in children.  What can you do to improve your child’s diet?
    1. Stop the junk food or at least limit it if your child has one of these problems.  Junk food has become a staple of the American diet.  While we can’t avoid eating it at times, preparing healthy tasty meals at home and preparing meals that kids actually like is important.  Also important is eating together (sitting down at a table, not in the car).
    2. Encourage your child to eat more fruit and vegetables – organic if possible.  Find ways to tempt them with great seasonal fruits if they aren’t used to eating them.
    3. Make sure your child is eating three balanced meals a day plus 1-2 snacks that don’t come out of a box.  Remember apples with peanut butter or PB and J sandwiches with cold milk?  These are snacks that our parents gave us and these are healthy.
    4. Do not keep your child from eating when they are hungry or try to restrict the amount of food they eat.  If your child is obese, take your focus off the “problem chid” and put it on the family.  What I mean by this is to model behaviors you want your child to adopt. Eat healthy as a family.  If you, as a parent have unhealthy eating habits, don’t expect your child to be any different.  Stay active as a family.  Rather than trying to get your kid up off the couch, get up with them and go hiking, biking, swimming, etc.
  2. Make sure your child is getting a good night’s sleep.  Their bedroom should be quiet and comfortable.  They should not watch TV to go to sleep if at all possible.  Establish a regular bedtime routine – reading a book, cuddling, or listening to calming music.  They should go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time.
  3. If medication is necessary, the strategies listed here can help the medication work better.
  4. Because we can no longer count on our ability to get good nutrition just from food, consider giving your child supplements:
    1. Omega-3 fatty acids are brain food – they have been shown to help with depression and with ADHD.
    2. A good multivitamin supplies many of the minerals and nutrients that may not be getting in the diet.
    3. Consider consulting with a naturopath or integrative medicine doctor to find out about supplements that can actually help your child who has ADHD or ADD, depression, anxiety or obesity.  Go to: www.integrativemedicine.edu
    4. There are also homeopathic remedies that may be helpful if you have a good classically trained Homeopath in your area.
    5. THESE ARE DIFFICULT conditions to treat but not hopeless.  Don’t put all the power into the hands of your health care provider.  There is a lot you can do to help your kids who are struggling.