There is so much hurting our children. Bullying and isolation and social media pressure and scary headlines that include school shootings, piled on top of the normal stressors of navigating growing up and figuring out a career goal and growing from a child’s body into an adult body and all the growing pains in between, as well as getting adequate nutrition and adequate sleep and it’s just all so stressful.
So today I wanted to offer something positive that we can do to protect the physical and mental well being of our children for the rest of their lives… I have three ideas for you below to support your child’s health, to give them the best launch pad possible.
Because even in the best of circumstances, most children are under tremendous stress and are likely to witness bullying or be directly bullied… and this has huge ramifications on their health.
The medical literature (published in JAMA Psychiatry in Feb, 2016) confirmed something we already intuitively know — that victims of bullying in childhood have painful, lasting ramifications well into adulthood. It was the largest study ever to look at childhood bullying :
- Children who were not bullied and were not engaging in bully behavior had a baseline 11% rate of psychiatric diagnosis by the age of 29 years.
- Children who were exposed to bullying (witness to bullying) had a 23% rate of psychiatric diagnosis by the age of 29.
- Children who both were exposed to bullying AND then engaged in bullying behaviors had a 31% rate of psychiatric diagnosis by the time they were 29 years old.
- Being exposed to bullying — even just witnessing bullying — doubled the rates of psychiatric diagnosis in adulthood, including depression, anxiety disorders, and psychosis.
- Being bullied and subsequently bullying others almost *triples* the rates of a psychiatric disorder diagnosed in adulthood.
So here’s the bottom line: Being subjected to bullying — and even just witnessing bullying — significantly raises the risk of depression, anxiety and psychosis in adulthood.
If being bullied, bullying others, or even just witnessing bullying activity doubles and triples the rates of psychiatric disorder severe enough to require diagnosis and treatment as an adult — then we need to do more.
Bullying is abuse. Doesn’t matter what the reason a child is being bullied for. Appearance, grades, size, shape, gender, sexuality… bullying causes lasting psychological damage equivalent to any other form of child abuse.
In 2012 I blogged about a medical study that shows that physical punishment (in the form of spanking) causes a steep rise in psychiatric disorders… and this newer study shows that bullying behaviors — even ones where the child is never touched… just WITNESSING intimidating behaviors — is creating lasting psychological damage.
Child abuse happens in all races, all socioeconomic levels, all countries. Estimates are that about 40 MILLIONS children EVERY SINGLE YEAR are abused world wide.
These studies serve to show it’s absolutely not just a concern over the child’s immediate safety and well being, but it is also a concern for long term health outcomes that reach well into adulthood.
Long term health consequences are not limited to physical health disorders such as adrenal fatigue, obesity, heart disease and cancer, but dramatically increase the incidence of psychiatric disorders in our adult population… including anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, addiction, PTSD and more.
Child abuse leaves epigenetic marks on the child’s genetic make up…
…inducing chemical changes in the way DNA is methylated and the way genes are expressed, activated or silenced.
This alters the way a cell functions and the way that organs and the body as a whole functions, causing poor health outcomes later in life.
Published in the May 14, 2013 in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, researchers show that childhood maltreatment causes different patterns of DNA methylation and genetic expression, causing a change in a child’s epigenetic profile.
So what can we do?
You know I never provide any form of upsetting medical literature without giving you positive, holistic tools to effect real change.
So here are 3 things you absolutely can do, today, to support your child’s long term health.
3 Ways To Support Your Child’s Health Today:
1. Be affectionate to your children.
Parents who are affectionate during childhood support long term well being in their children, well into adulthood… mitigating some of the damage of childhood bullying.
According to research conducted by Darcai Narvaez at the University of Notre Dame, adults who reported that they received physical affection from their parents and felt supported by their parents, as well as did things as a family both inside and outside of the home, had lower rates of depression, lower rates of anxiety, less stress in social situations and a greater ability for empathetic behavior.
There was also a very interesting medical study that suggests that affection from a mother during infancy helps protect the health of that child well into adulthood — I wrote an entire article on that for you here.
So today, to give you tons of ideas on how to parent for the well being of your child, I’ve written an entire book dedicated to presenting the latest medical information and uplifting positive parenting ideas to support an entire lifetime of optimized well being in your child. I wrote it and offer it to you absolutely free, just to help support you during that exhausting, often overwhelming job of parenting.
It’s a totally free, easy to read, fun, heart centered parenting workbook that blends the past 20 years of my experience as a physician with my own parenting journey as a mother of two beautiful children, who are now 18 and 20 years old.
I wanted my children to know that health is their natural state of being.
I want your children to know that too.
So I wrote it all down for you. Download the free book here.
2. Let your child adopt a pet
I strongly suggest if at all possible, you allow your child to have a favorite pet during childhood.
Having pets has not only been found to cut asthma rates in half (as published on November 2, 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics) but it gives them many psychological benefits such as:
- giving children a very healthy exposure to unconditional love
- providing stability and continuity during times of unavoidable stress in the child’s life (such as during a move to a new home, entering a new school, or a change in the family dynamics such as a death or divorce)
- providing a framework to talk about holistic and important topics such as death (as inevitably pets have a shorter life span than humans and often the death of a pet is a very healthy introduction to speaking about death before it pertains to a human family member such as the loss of a grandparent) and reproduction (my kids saw many a baby being born by their guinea pigs, rabbits, and chickens, even hand bottle fed baby birds and helped house train all their puppies!)
Loving and caring for a special pet is a priceless, priceless gift during childhood. To go into more detail on this, you can read an article I wrote for you that reviews how having a pet can boost your child’s health not just during childhood, but for an entire lifetime, right here:
3. Encourage positive, uplifting connections with others
It turns out, children are actually more open to positive mood states than to negative ones. And as a this study shows, teenagers in particular are more likely to be uplifted by being around others who are in a positive mood than to be brought down by being around those in a negative one.
Supporting and encouraging positive friendships in your teen’s life has the effect of not only boosting their mood, but of significantly reducing over all risk of clinical depression as well as doubling the probability of recovering from existing depression:
- Using the same models that are used in preventive medicine to assess the spread of infectious disease, researchers evaluated over 3,000 teens enrolled in US high schools.
- Mood was assessed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.
- Followed for 12 months, there was a statistically significant *transmission* of health mood for teens who were surrounded by friends with a positive mindset.
- Teens with 5 or more healthy friends had half the risk of developing depression, and teens with 10 or more healthy friends were twice as likely to recover from a depressive episode.
- And happily, there was no statistical significant *transmission* of depressed mood for teens surrounded by friends with a negative mindset.
This is a hugely effective intervention — encouraging healthy friendships is a healthy, natural, holistic, non-medicinal way to create resiliency in your teen.
I find it incredibly interesting that positive, healthy mood states fit into mathematical statistical models… spreading and replicating via human contact… while negative mood states do not.
So… is a good mood a contagion? Yes! Turns out, positive mood spreads in a similar way to a contagious or infectious exposure. So worry less and support your teen’s friendships and joy more… that’s the bottom line from this study.
If you are concerned about your teen’s mind-frame, encourage them to get connecting:
- play sports
- join clubs
- connect with friends
- connect with family
- connect with their community
- and connect with therapists or other supportive mental health professionals if necessary…
…because medical studies prove that being around others with a good mood helps not only in the short term (transforming the energy of that interaction) but is protective over time to help decrease both incidence and prevalence of depression.
I hope these ideas helped give you some ways to help support your own beloved child as they navigate these incredibly difficult times. Childhood trauma is no joke. It is held by the body and internalized and affects our health down the road.
In fact, this medical study shows an association between trauma in childhood resulting in an increased risk of having surgery to remove the reproductive organs as an adult.
In other words, earlier trauma significantly impacts the sexual health and reproductive health of a woman and culminates later in life to increase their risk of having major surgery.
- Researchers found a statistically significant correlation between women who had ovarian and uterine removal surgery as an adult and verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, substance abuse in the household as a child, and suicidal ideation or suicide attempts.
- Women who had considered or attempted suicide were more than twice as likely to have their reproductive organs surgically removed as an adult than their matched controls.
- The highest rate of statistical significance was childhood physical abuse, with patients who had the surgery being almost ***6 TIMES AS LIKELY*** to have had physical abuse as a child.
The Bottom Line: Traumatic experiences in childhood causes epigenetic changes that increase the chances of having the reproductive organs removed as an adult.
This study is a very vivid reminder that what happens to us affects our physical body.
What happens to us emotionally, what happens to us when we are under stress, what happens to us when we are betrayed, neglected, sexually abused, or mistreated shows up in painful ways that you can’t ignore as an adult.
If there is one thing I know after working with patients on both a physical and an energetic level for all of these years, it’s that there is a heck of a lot more to a physical illness than just what is physically going on in the cells and tissues of the body.
What can you do to protect your health if you have had childhood trauma?
Actually, the detrimental health effects from trauma are fully reversible. So if you are an adult who had significant childhood trauma, please know that you can reverse the trauma and protect your health as an adult. In fact, there are some studies that suggest that having gone through a trauma as a child makes you an even healthier adult, with improved longevity.
How? You can start with talking about it.
The largest meta-analysis to date on trauma recovery (looking at data from over 11,000 relevant medical studies) suggests that the best long term recovery after trauma is simply talking about it, no medication required.
Published in JAMA Psychiatry on June 12, 2019, reasearchers looked at direct comparisons between talk therapy (psychotherapy) and drug therapy (pharmacological treatments) in patients with PTSD.
- They found that in the long term, talk therapy helped more, being slightly superior to drug therapy both immediately following treatment and in long term follow up.
- The studies they looked at ranged from 2 months to 6 months long, and this meta-analysis showed there was no advantage to using drugs in recovering from PTSD.
- This means that drugs are now no longer recommended for first line treatment of trauma, as there is no indication that they are beneficial.
What does this mean?
While I am certainly not against the use of medications when they are needed, they should be used sparingly and either short term (as they do not show any long term advantage) or only for patients who don’t find improvement after talk therapy alone.
Be encouraged by this. This means that the vast majority of folks can be helped — and helped best — by talking about trauma instead of medicating it away.
Connect with others.
Reach out for help.
Don’t feel like you are going crazy and don’t feel like you must go it alone.
We all have trauma, we all do. And we can lean on each other and get through it.
There is long term benefit from connecting to others and speaking about it. Treatment is not relegated to a psychiatrist’s office nor does it need to be prescribed away.
In fact, as I blogged about here, PTSD can actually be significantly helped by something as simple and as accessible as repeating a mantra. It’s true. Here are some other blog posts I’ve written on trauma recovery for you:
- Your 2022 Healing Mantra, Say It With Me
- Trauma Changes The Health Of Your Body, But It’s Reversible
- Trauma Increases Headache Risk 4-Fold
- Childhood Trauma Increases Risk Of Self Harm. Here’s Help.
- OCD May Stem From Birth Trauma
- Going From Surviving To Thriving After Cancer
- Is Your Job Driving You Crazy? You Are Not Alone. Here’s Help.
- Resolving PTSD, OCD, Tobacco and Drug Addiction Too
- Emotional Stress Directly Predicts Heart Attack… 10 Ways To Prevent It
- Letting Go Helps You Heal (Here’s How)
- Is Stress Is Making Your Antidepressant Ineffective?
- The Healing Power Of Grounded Touch
- A Super Interesting Difference Between Men and Women When Under Stress
- Another Difference Between Men and Women… Found On Autopsy
- The Healing Process Of Grief
Health is an expression of who we are and what we have gone through over our entire lifetime. This is literally why I spent years creating my Trauma Resiliency & Recovery Class.
In this class, I go through what the medical literature tells us about how the body handles and processes (and heals and releases!) trauma so that you can understand and make sense of what your body is trying to tell you.
Everyone experiences trauma… but what makes some people recover? What allows some folks to not only survive, but actually thrive despite deeply traumatic events and circumstances? How do you get over something that is unforgivable, unfair, or life altering?
When trying to forget it, trying to forgive it, and trying to move on don’t work, the only thing left is to actually fix it.
I want to invite you to this very special, very personal, deeply healing two week class where we will dive deep into the science, medicine and energy behind healing, resilience, recovery and health.
Class runs August 29th through September 9th. It’s two weeks of daily uplifting healing videos, medical studies that show us how we can recover more easily and optimize our health along the way, healing activities, exercises and more.
Even old, very old, deeply wounding traumas can be released. The medical literature is very clear on this: you can actually be healthier after trauma than you would have been without experiencing any trauma at all!
Healing right along side you…