In our last post, we discussed anxiety in children. In this post,w e begin to tackle how you, the parent, can help your child overcome anxiety.
Before trying to deal with the anxiety, first find out if the child is hungry. What and when did he/she last eat? Did they consume a sugary food or high carbohydrate type meal, such as cereal, for breakfast?
Blood sugar and anxiety
A sugary food causes a rapid rise in blood sugar and the resulting release of insulin causes the blood sugar to drop leaving many people, child or adult, feeling irritable and anxious. If a child is hungry or hypoglycemic, it is impossible to behave normally. This is the connection between blood sugar and anxiety.
When our blood sugars drop or if we are dehydrated we go into a crisis mode which means that adrenalin gets released and our heart rate goes up; we feel panicked inside and become agitated and irritable. Sugar also depletes the body of B vitamins which the body needs to maintain calm.
The solution: give the child a high protein snack. If the child is out of control and refuses to eat, you may have to feed him while distracting him. Read him a book while you feed him, but do whatever you can to get something into him that is high in protein. Fruit juices are mostly sugar-even natural juices with no sugar added- so if you give your child juice it must be followed up with some form of protein.
Great protein type snacks are cheese sticks, almond butter or peanut butter on an apple or whole grain crackers, eggs, some form of fish (e.g. tuna salad) or even lentils.
Be wary of food rewards
A word of caution, just because the child is anxious it does not mean that he/she has to be rewarded with food. The last thing you want to do is to teach your child that the way to deal with stress is by eating. Once a child is taught that eating is the way to manage stress, it is almost impossible to convince them otherwise. If you are going to feed a child because they are hungry and acting out, it must be with a nutritious type food, not a sugary treat.
Get help for anxiety in children
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The next article will discuss the various age related behaviors and how to deal with them.