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Depression, Food and Kids

As a parent, you know that the best way to keep your kids and your family mentally healthy is to deal with your own mental health appropriately. But that's so much easier said than done. Especially in the face of a worldwide health crisis, environmental devastation, and increasing racial and political tensions.

That's why I've been encouraging everyone I see and communicate with to take this one simple step. Walk more. And to do it outside, even in all different types of weather.

Walking stimulates your senses and keeps you moving forward. You can do it alone or with a family member. I don't think you can fall asleep while walking and it would be really hard to watch TV. Walking has been proven by science to alleviate depression and anxiety. What's there not to love about walking?

So what about food? What does food have to do with our mental health? As it turns out plenty. Our digestive systems are more directly connected to our emotions than we thought. Blood sugar, hormones, and something called the vagus nerve are all involved in regulating the way we feel. Read about how you can use food to improve your family's moods here.

I'm sure you've heard of someone having a gut feeling. It turns out there may be more truth in that old saying that anyone imagined!

As an early childhood and family educator, I haven't "seen it all". But while clocking in at least 75,000 hours over a 43-year career but I have a lot of experience with food, family, and emotions. There are many complicated relationships to think about. Here are a couple of ideas to help us simplify the concept of eating and make it more pleasurable.

  1. Never make meals a battlefield. You decided when and what to offer. They decide what to eat and how much. You may have to divide up any sugars or processed grains because they're so addictive. Then you can relax.

  2. Include fatty fish like tuna, salmon, or trout. Countries whose people eat more fish have less depression because of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3's are also found in flaxseed which is also a great plant source of fiber and protein.

  3. Eat sweets with a meal rather than by themselves to keep blood sugar and mood more stable. That also makes it easier to serve a normal-sized portion rather than super-sizing everything like we tend to do in the US. If you've wondered about why French kids and adults don't have as much trouble with obesity as Americans you can read my first-hand observations as a tourist there last summer, here.

Now here's one bit of parenting advice that has nothing to do with food but everything to do with emotional health.

Spend 20 minutes each day reading and cuddling with your child and they'll be smarter, happier, and better able to cope with problems. It's as simple as that and I have a MA in human development and a BS in education.

Who doesn't want their kids to be smarter and happier? Apparently, 30% of parents in the US who never read to their kids at all. But who'd have known we could improve the mental health of children just by taking the time to read to them daily?

Kids who listen, friends who care, a family that supports. Want it all? Get an all-access pass to my website which I designed to be a virtual playground for parents and providers where they can learn, have fun, and mingle. You deserve it!!


Nanci J Bradley, 60+, is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI

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