4 Tips for Boosting Your Kid's Holistic Health

At the Meeting House, we believe that a healthy brain is connected to an overall healthy lifestyle. We sat down with one of our advisory board members, Dr. Laura Tagliareni, pediatric neuropsychologist at Pediatric Assessment Learning & Support (PALS), and discussed some of the best, holistic ways to create a brain-healthy environment for your child. Here’s what she recommends: 
1.    Ensure your kids eat well and get plenty of rest.
This tip may seem obvious, but it’s one of the most crucial. In her practice, Dr. Tagliareni recommends an overall biopsychosocial approach to brain health, since everything from environment to diet can affect a child’s mental well-being. Getting a good night’s rest is critically important for a child’s functioning. “People underestimate the importance of sleep in children — they need a lot more than we do,” Dr. Tagliareni says. 
When it comes to meal choice, Dr. Tagliareni advises instituting a regular, well-balanced, healthy diet that includes protein. “I really worry about our children's nutrition— particularly given the number of processed foods so readily available.” She cautions against excessive consumption of food dyes and refined sugar and suggests that if you’re concerned about your child not getting the proper amount of nutrients from his or her diet, speak with your pediatrician or consult with a nutritionist about food choices or possible supplements.   

2.    Don’t overschedule your kids. It’s okay for them to have down time. 
One trend that Dr. Tagliareni has noticed in her practice is the uptick in children with anxiety. She chalks some of this to what she sees as an increase in pressure placed on kids at an earlier age — a result of overscheduled activities and academic stress. “I think we have so much structure, we have become overly routinized. It’s important to sometimes just let kids be,” she notes. Letting kids be, especially letting them have alone time — to play or listen to music in their rooms without devices— can help them decompress and foster creative play.
3.    Talk to your children about their emotions, specifically in times of grief or trauma.
“Kids pick up on everything. They feel the emotion in the house. They know when something is different,” Dr. Tagliareni states emphatically. Loss is a part of life, and children are, at some point, going to lose someone close to them. Most parents want to understandably protect their children, and therefore may avoid talking about grief or difficult emotions; but, as Dr. Tagliareni advises, it’s really the opposite approach that is necessary. If adults are open and communicative about what’s going on, it can help lessen their children’s anxiety. She recommends being open, honest, and direct (at an emotionally- and intellectually-appropriate level) with your kids. Holding regular family dinners, she advises, is a perfect time to have these discussions. 
4.    Weigh all sides when deciding about medications
In our society, we often reach for quick fixes, according to Dr. Tagliareni, and in this fast-paced approach, we often resort to medication as an automatic solution. However, there may be alternative interventions that can work, because, as she states, “If there’s a challenge or difference, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a disability or a disorder.” Getting a proper and thorough evaluation by a professional — to make sure your child is being diagnosed properly — is a key part of ensuring the appropriate interventions. Kids also have good days and bad days, so it’s important to note behavior over the long-term. This doesn’t mean that medication isn’t necessary for some children because, “When it works, the results can be quite promising ” 

Balance and healthy life style needs to be systemic in a family. Parents need to model good habits and make it clear that these are family values. 

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