Good lessons for body, mind and spirit

August 17, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

"You're not the boss. I am."

When I heard a father say that to his toddler son recently, I had to smile. Most of us have been in his shoes.

From a very early age, children test the boundaries that have been set for them. They want to lead, not follow. They're not ready to be in control, even though they'd like us to believe otherwise.

Seasoned parents know how to use this desire in a positive way by releasing the reins slowly, giving children simple choices and responsibilities that are age-appropriate.


Children especially like making decisions involving their own bodies. They want to decide what to wear, what to eat, what to play.

Helping them make the right choices can keep them healthy. Parents can equip children with the ability to make some decisions on their own, says Dr. Timothy Culbert, a behavioral and developmental pediatrician with training in biofeedback and holistic medicine.

Studies show that increasing numbers of families are turning to natural remedies first to treat health problems in children, says Culbert, co-author of the new "Be the Boss of Your Body," series of books for children ages 7 to 12.

Culbert and his co-author, nurse practitioner Rebecca Kajander, encourage children and their parents to view health in terms of body, mind and spirit.

Children feel their best when all three are in balance, Culbert and Kajander explain in the beginning of each book.

Their books focus on self-care for kids in three areas: "Be the Boss of Your Sleep," "Be the Boss of Your Pain" and "Be the Boss of Your Stress."


With school just around the corner, it is especially important for children to be getting enough sleep.

If your child is having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting enough sleep, Culbert has a few recommendations:

1. "Always do the same thing, every night, in the same order."

2. Use aromatherapy. Try essential oils such as lavender, orange or sweet orange. Place one or two drops on a tissue or a cotton ball and allow your child to inhale it for a few minutes before bedtime. Or, for extended aromatherapy benefits, purchase a diffuser for the oil. Essential oils can be applied topically but should be diluted in a carrier oil or a cream, Culbert says.

3. Teach your child to use relaxation techniques so he can calm himself. Tell your child to think of a favorite place and allow his mind to focus on it.

"As your mind calms down, often your body will follow," Culbert says.


Children often become upset when they get hurt. If they learn to remain calm, the pain is often not as intense, Culbert says.

He suggests teaching children a few coping skills to help them deal with the bumps and bruises they inevitably will experience:

1. Slow-paced belly breathing will calm the nervous system and allow a child to relax even when he is hurt.

2. Acupressure can alleviate some of the pain caused by common ailments. For example, pressure applied for 30 to 60 seconds at the crease between your thumb and forefinger can relieve headaches, stomachaches, toothaches, body aches and cold symptoms.

3. Get enough sleep and try to reduce stress. Children who aren't sleeping well or who have too much stress tend to get sick more often and feel more pain.


Culbert says parents can help reduce the amount of stress in a child's life with the following efforts:

1. Avoid overloading your family's schedule.

"There's more of a tendency for kids and parents being in too many things and not having enough down time," Culbert says.

2. Also avoid too much mental arousal caused by information or media overload.

3. Don't be overly perfectionistic. This throws your nervous system out of balance and causes undue stress.

For more information about the "Be the Boss of Your Body" series, go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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