If you have a child in the 2 to 4 –year- old range, you most likely have grown familiar with the dreaded temper tantrum. Let’s say you interrupt your toddler as he is in the midst of building a block tower. When you inform him that he needs to leave it and accompany you to the grocery store, his face begins to turn a deep shade of red. It starts with a slow stomping then escalates to bellowing shrieks. You dodge a block he throws in your direction. If this reminds you of a similar episode with your child, first you should know that this is quite common at this age. As your child struggles to express herself verbally, she simultaneously develops a desire to feel more independent and in control. Hence, the emotional outbursts. This should not be a cause of alarm, as children grow out of this phase with emotional development. However, if your child reacts with frequent or intense temper tantrums, you may need to take steps toward healthy intervention.
Children seem to spend more time indoors today than in the past. My memories of childhood include capture-the-flag games with neighbors and rollerblade hockey tournaments. It saddens me when I hear that more and more children plop themselves in front of the TV, or stare transfixed at an iPhone. Just as you may feel you need a good run after a long day, your child needs a similar outlet. Pent up frustration is easily released on the playground. Imagine the exhaustion that would follow your child’s trampoline jumping session. Energy for a temper tantrum after that? Most likely not! A lack of sleep can also lead to emotional outbursts, making a structured sleep routine and nap time especially important.
The most useful tool you have for keeping your child relaxed and healthy lies in the quality of his or her diet. Research has shown that artificial food coloring and preservatives in food lead to an increase in temper tantrums and behavioral problems in young children. The UK Asthma and Allergy Research Center facilitated a study where a group of 227 three-year-olds drank either fruit juice dosed with artificial coloring and preservatives or water daily for two weeks. The group assigned to the fruit juice had greater instances of temper tantrums, trouble sleeping, and lack of concentration. More about this study can be found in an article by the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-144483/Additives-make-children-behave-badly.html.
In the U.S., we regularly see artificial coloring, such as Red Dye # 40 and Yellow Dye # 5, in popular food and drink products. Both have been shown to trigger hyperactivity. When providing the proper care for children, it is crucial that we provide them with nutrient-rich, organic, and whole foods. Also look for labels marked: “preservative-free.” For an in-depth analysis of preservatives to avoid, The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a comprehensive list here: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm.
Food additives are largely present in processed and packaged foods. A simple way to make sure you are following the healthiest diet plan for your child is to contact Swanson Health Center for an appointment. Please reach out to us if you have any specific questions for your child!