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Children’s behavioural problems: first steps in treatment

Susan Hunter Mental Health 1 Comment

You could be at the beginning of a journey looking for answers about your children’s behavioural problems, whether it is anger, sadness, frustration, fear, poor attention or an inability to cope with change or conflict. Don’t worry. You are not alone.

It is difficult to manage the behavioural challenges that kids face on a daily basis even when everything is going according to plan. But there’s good news. There are things you can do to turn things around for you and your child, starting today.

Investigate thoroughly

There are no magic pills here. This is a journey, and as the old proverb goes, every journey starts with a single step. Working with an experienced integrative doctor and/or experienced naturopath to find the underlying causes is integral. From this starting point an effective treatment plan can be formulated. Contacting a health practitioner to establish whether you child needs an assessment is a great place to start. Even this simple task can be a major relief.

Ask questions

Assess whether the practitioner has the right expertise by asking whether your child’s behavioural problems are an area of specialty before booking your appointment. Good questions include:

  • Do you treat children’s mood disorders?
  • My child is exhibiting X, Y and Z symptoms. Are you experienced in treating those?
  • What is your general approach to treating children’s mental wellbeing?
  • Are you familiar with the Walsh approach?

If you proceed with a consultation, your practitioner should take a thorough case history and determine the right tests to develop a clear picture of what’s happening. This often means examining gut function, detoxification capacity and nutrient levels in the body.

baby boy with brother

Finding links

Many behavioural problems have a few things in common. For example, there is often a nutritional biochemistry problem created by an underlying gut problem and impaired detoxification capacity. The result is an under-nourished, inflamed and toxic child.

It’s horrible to think that this is the state of some of our children but quite often that is what we are trying to repair in the clinical setting. This combination of things affects the psychological and emotional wellbeing of the child and their family, which can be very hard on everyone involved.

Seek psychological support

See a well equipped practitioner to help your child understand their feelings and manage them in a healthy way. A child’s self esteem can slip very quickly when they are old enough to be aware of their own or their parent’s negative patterns of behaviour.

Working with parents to recognise, understand and respond to their child’s emotions in an accepting and supportive way helps create a more harmonious home environment. Programs such as the Tuning Into Kids program help with developing important parenting strategies for dealing with difficult behaviour. Tuning Into Kids and Social and Emotional Learning For Kids programs are run at Bamkins in Hampton.

Cut out sugar

Restricting sugar is a positive first step in balancing a child’s energy levels and behaviour. This can be tricky when you have an autistic child who will only eat white foods like bread, pasta and rice. Pyroluric kids can have a one track mind for sweet things and crackers. The answer here is to go slow with changes. Do not announce that “This house is going sugar-free!”.

Instead, slowly change the offerings at home to healthier alternatives. That flavoured yoghurt becomes a natural yoghurt with pureed berries and that handful of rice crackers after school becomes hommus and wholegrain rice crackers initially, and then a week later it’s hommus offered with carrot sticks and no crackers.

Another helpful approach is to swap sweet for savoury. Rather than have muesli, cereal and porridge laden with honey or maple syrup, instead have a savoury breakfast offering. Poached eggs with soldiers (who doesn’t love those!) and nut butter on toast are all healthier options to avoid quick blood sugar spikes and drops.

Hopefully that gives you a few starting points on treating kids with behavioural challenges. If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Susan Hunter
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Susan Hunter

B.Hsc (Naturopathy), B.A. (Psych) at Healthful Clinic - Founder and Director
Susan Hunter is a double-degree qualified naturopath, a published academic author and the founder of Healthful Clinic. She writes widely on mental health, digestive conditions and children's health.
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