Nutrition for Childhood Trauma

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Obviously, good nutrition is important for all children. For children who have experienced trauma either prenatally (such as prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol or stress) or in early childhood, good nutrition is a critical component in their brain function and healing.

The importance of nutrition in children who have had early childhood trauma along with practical, specific tipsChronic stress can actually impact the way a person digests and absorbs their food so in children with higher cortisol levels due to early trauma, supplements may be needed.

When a child eats regularly scheduled nutritious snacks and meals, their blood sugar levels remain constant. This allows an optimal opportunity for learning and for regulating moods.

Dehydration causes all kinds of problems including decreased cognitive function, headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, increased anxiety, and mood swings. Getting enough water and reducing or eliminating caffeinated and carbonated drinks impacts everything from sleep to emotional regulation to playtime.

Ways to improve nutrition in children with trauma:

  • set a timer to remind yourself to give your child small healthy snacks
  • have a regular schedule for mealtimes so that they know what to expect
  • give each child a water bottle and keep it filled all day
  • remind them regularly to drink their water
  • model healthy eating by eating breakfast, lunch and supper yourself and drinking enough water

If you suspect that nutrition may be playing a role in your child’s behaviour, keep a food journal for two weeks. Document everything your child eats and what time and record behavioural challenges that correlate within a two hour window. Look for patterns.

If you see patterns that seem to correlate with behaviour issues, try eliminating that food from your child’s diet or try an elimination diet. Foods that are commonly associated with changes in behaviour are gluten, dairy, sugar, colourings, and additives.

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for children who have FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), ADHD or trauma. Studies show they reduce symptoms of anxiety, impulsivity, inattention, and learning difficulties. Omega-3 can be introduced through fish oil capsules, seafood, flaxseed oil capsules or flaxseed, raw almonds, raw walnuts, soybeans, spinach, and chia seeds.

Adopted children and food:

Food can be interlinked with trauma in children who have experienced neglect or were born into poverty and went hungry. Providing a feeling of safety in regards to food can take years. It is important for children, especially those who may not have had consistent access to food in their past to know that their physical needs will now always be met. Telling them that there will always be food for them is not enough. Show them where the food is in the house. Choose some food that they can have unlimited access to. In our house, this is fruit and vegetables, but when our internationally adopted children first came home, we also provided them with a box of snacks such as granola bars and nuts that they could have whenever they wanted. We always kept their water bottles filled so they would know that clean water would never be something they had to go without. Having very set snack times and mealtimes also helps to establish trust in the area of food.

Some children who have experienced neglect or hunger will hoard food or will eat to the point of being sick. Generally speaking, those types of behaviours will lessen once food is consistently provided but for some children, these behaviours can be long lasting. The brain is a powerful thing and sometimes even years after hunger, children will be in fear of being hungry and be hoarding food or overeating. If this is the case for your child, you need to talk to a doctor or mental health professional, particularly one who specializes in adopted children.

Malnutrition is also a consideration in adopted children who have experienced hunger. They will need supplements and a nutrient rich diet. They will also need healthy fats to help with their brain development and function. You may wish to consult with a nutritionist.

Adoption Nutrition is a website specifically for information for adoptive parents on nutrition. It also includes lists of what internationally adopted children may be deficient in depending on their birth country.

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This is part of a series with other special needs moms. This month’s topic was food or mealtimes. You can click on the links below to read their tips and experiences.

Food Issues: Are They Behavioral, Sensory Related or Medical? | Every Star is Different

How We’re Gradually Introducing New Food Into Our Son’s Restricted Diet | My Home Truths

Nutrition for Childhood Trauma | The Chaos and The Clutter

30 Things SPD Parents Secretly Wish You Knew About Their “Picky Eater” | Lemon Lime Adventures

Mealtime Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia and/or Autism | And Next Comes L

How to Help a Non Verbal Autistic Child at Make Meal Time Choices| Kori at Home

The 7 Food Battles Not Worth Fighting About With Your Picky Eater with Special Needs | Finding the Golden Gleam

Create Your Own Feelings Jenga Game

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Giving kids a vocabulary rich in emotion words is one of the best things you can do as a parent. This is particularly true if you are parenting kids who have experienced trauma, have anxiety or are on the autism spectrum. This Jenga Feelings Game is perfect for helping kids talk about their emotions and experiences, building their vocabulary of emotion words and improve their communication skills.

Feelings Jenga Game is perfect for therapists or parents working with kids on their emotions and expressing their experiences.I love finding ways to make this kind of teaching fun. Presenting a therapeutic activity as a game is a great way to help your child feel relaxed. Being relaxed is an important element to learning. It means your child can access all of their brain instead of being in their “lizard brain” which happens when they are feeling under stress or for any other reason are in fight, flight or freeze mode.

One of my daughters played a version of this in therapy and as soon as she told me about it, I knew we could easily make one to play at home too. We have since invented different versions of the game. Some of my kids have an easier time talking about their feelings and past experiences than others so I have found ways to adapt it accordingly. The key is to make sure they feel comfortable and relaxed. This will ensure that any learning is effective and will make it more enjoyable for everyone.

To create this Feelings Jenga Game, you will need a Jenga game. You can use a permanent marker to write feeling words on the side of the wood blocks in the game or I have created printable feeling words that can be cut out and attached to the Jenga blocks with double-sided tape or glue. In the printables, I have also left some blank so that you can add in any other feelings words that you would like to focus on.

How to play Feelings Jenga:

Once the blocks have feeling words on them, set them up as you would in a regular Jenga game. There are two variations to the set up. You can face the words in so that you can’t see them or you can face the words out so that most of them will be visible during the game. For kids who are particularly apprehensive of not being able to see the words on the inside, you can have them do the set-up so that they know what even the few hidden words are.

One way to play this game is to have to describe the word that you pull out before placing it on top. This is a nice introductory way to play and especially good for kids who don’t have a strong emotion word vocabulary.

Another way to play this game is to have the person who draws the block have to describe a time or experience in their life when they felt that particular emotion. You can expand on this by having them explain how that felt and how they coped with that positive or negative feeling.

For kids who are just starting this game or who are less comfortable talking about their feelings, it will be less difficult if the words are visible because they can pull ones that are easier for them to talk about. As they grow more comfortable with the game and with expressing their feelings, they may reach a point where they are comfortable pulling out blocks even when they can’t see what the word will be.

If you know that this particular child is too vulnerable to be able to discuss certain emotions, it may be best to not include those words in the game the first few times you play. Ease into things at their pace.

This Jenga Feelings Game is perfect for helping kids talk about their emotions and experiences.This game allows children to express their experiences and feelings in a non-threatening way. Of course, modelling is another great thing about the Feelings Jenga game because it allows you to participate and model how to talk about feelings and times in your own life when you have felt those things. The child you are playing with may be able to relate to those experiences and have a “me too” moment, which can be very powerful.

This game is great for communication skills, lowering anxiety and normalizing talking about emotions and life experiences, both challenging and successful.

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Unique Slime Recipes

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Slimes are a great sensory activity for kids. There are many slime recipes out there and I wanted to showcase some of the most unique slime recipes. I’m sure you will find these as cool as your kids will find them!

These unique slime recipes are sure to wow! From magnetic slime to colour changing slime to slimes made with the most unusual ingredients you can imagineDiaper Slime – This recipe from Sugar, Spice and Glitter has got to be about the most unique slime out there. It gets its fluffiness from the crystals in disposable diapers!

Super Stretchy No Borax Slime – What makes this slime recipe from STEAM Powered Kids so different is that it doesn’t use Borax, liquid starch or detergent.

Magnetic Slime – This magnetic slime (yes, really!) from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls is part sensory, part science and all fun!

Heat Sensitive Colour Changing Slime – Another science lesson can be found in this colour changing slime by Left Brain Craft Brain.

Homemade Sand Slime – This recipe by Little Bins for Little Hands uses real sand to create a fun slime.

Rainbow Slime – This glittery rainbow slime from MomDot is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or Spring.

Polka Dot Slime – Fun at Home with Kids’ polka dot slime is the first slime recipe I ever tried to make and it turned out wonderfully. The key is the clear glue.

Galaxy Slime – This gorgeous galaxy slime from Two Daloo is super cool.

Baby Safe Edible Slime – Wildflower Ramblings came up with this slime recipe that even little ones can play with.

Slime Drawings – Who would have ever thought to use slime for artwork?! I love this idea from Left Brain Craft Brain.

Easy Gold Slime – I’m amazed at the way this slime from Fun a Day sparkles.

Chocolate Slime – Even though this chocolate slime invented by Little Bins for Little Hands is not edible, I’ll bet it smells delicious!

Glow in the Dark Slime – Playdough to Plato created this slime recipe that glows in the dark.

Mud Slime – This ooey-gooey slime from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls is like elevating a mud pie.

The only question now is what cool slime recipe are you going to try first?!

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Squishy Sky Sensory Bag

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This squishy sky sensory bag is simple to make and you only need a few materials. Depending on the age of your child, they can even help cut out the clouds to make the sensory bag.

Sky sensory bag is perfect for little explorers.Materials needed:

Using scissors, cut some cloud shapes out of the white foam sheet. If you are having your child help you with this step, you can lightly sketch the outline of a cloud with pencil and have them cut along the outline.

Place the foam clouds inside a resealable bag. Add a few items from the In the Sky toob and squeeze some blue hair gel or body wash into the bag. Remove excess air from the bag and seal.

I prefer to use a good quality freezer bag rather than a sandwich bag for sensory bags because they are more durable and I prefer the size as well.

If you’re using these sky sensory bags with younger children, you can secure the opening of the bag by folding strong clear packing tape or duct tape over the top of the bag. You can also do this to all sides of the bag for extra durability.

I used the same In the Sky toob to make a Sky Sensory Bottle and a Sky Sensory Bin. All of these were perfect during our Flight Unit in homeschooling.

Sky Sensory Bottle

Sky Sensory Bin

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