• Dr. Shantai Watson

Back to School Scaries

Like most things in 2020, “back to school” is a little tougher this year.

Smaller class sizes without your child’s closest friends, being unable to see their teachers faces and facial expressions, social distancing rules, closed water fountains and general fear regarding COVID-19 has been mixed with the usual obstacles of navigating new schools, new classes, new routines, making new friends or beginning the application process to colleges.

Although it is not feasible for everyone, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends in-person schooling, writing, "The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. While many students excel with home-schooling, the social, physical and emotional benefits of learning alongside peers is well documented.

Our "new normal" amidst this world pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of adults and children, which experts predict will create and exacerbate mental health issues for months to come.

With social distancing and lockdown requirements across many countries, children have had much fewer social interactions in 2020. These interactions are key to develop a strong mental and emotional foundation. The lack of a structured routine likely means they are also less physically active. In one study from Shanghai, China, the same surveys were sent twice to the same group of 2,427 children and adolescents.

The study showed that the children were less active by 7.25 hours each week. The number of screen time hours, however, increased by 28.83 per week when in comparison to before the pandemic. This prolonged screen time can compound physical challenges such as “tech neck” and forward head posture, and mental challenges; including emotional stability and the ability to make friends.

Children are highly vulnerable to traumatic and adverse events. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms are anxiety, changes in appetite, depression and impaired social interactions. The physiological effects of stress and trauma can also compromise a child's immune system.

5 things you can do at home:

1. Maintain a regular routine, regular rules & boundaries (even amidst irregular times).

Kids will never tell you; but having structure, rules and boundaries help alleviate their anxiety by creating predictability in their day to day life.

2. Help build your child’s self-esteem.

For example: Role playing anxiety-provoking conversations and encouraging participation in sports.

3. Encourage positive social connections.

Can you identify a family that your child is comfortable to socialize with? Encourage friendships in a safe environment.

4. Relaxation/ Vagal nerve stimulation techniques.

There are many ways to stimulate the Vagal Nerve. Two of my favorites, and easiest to implement, are humming with a deep tone and taking 10 deep, slow breaths.

5. Nutrition

Avoid added sugars (especially anything with high fructose corn syrup), added dyes, processed grains and hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

How chiropractic can help:

The spine’s most important function is to protect the nervous system. By adjusting the spine, we remove interference in the brain-body connection, and allow the nervous system to function with ease. Chiropractic helps you to better perceive and adapt to the world around you.

There are 2 divisions of the autonomic nervous system: the parasympathetic “rest and digest” and the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous systems. Anxiety is characterized by overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. This means that the “fight or flight” response is engaged unnecessarily. The fight or flight response is responsible for opening our eyes wide, increasing our heart rate and breathing rate, pumping blood away from our digestive system and towards our extremities so we can run fast and respond to stressful situations, such as seeing a tiger in the wild. However, sometimes, this response may be stimulated unnecessarily in situations that may not warrant it: such as running away when the school bus is here, vomiting or unable to eat food due to the stress of applying to colleges or freezing and not speaking in social situations.

In these situations, having your child checked by a chiropractor can help in 3 ways:

1. Helping the brain to communicate more clearly with the body.

Studies have shown that a chiropractic adjustment has the ability to stimulate the Parasympathetic / Rest and Digest nervous system. It has also been shown to improve balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic response, suggesting a better ability to respond appropriately to the world around you.

2. Helping the brain to process sensory information, and reduce hypersensitivity.

** Look for a chiropractor certified by the ICPA ( or with additional training in helping children with hypersensitivities**

3. Identifying and correcting spinal misalignments that may be affecting comfort and athletic performance.

2020 is an anomaly of a year. If you or your child are experiencing difficulties, know that you are not alone and there are many ways to help!

Have questions about how chiropractic can benefit your child?

Call/text (720) 509-9379 for a complimentary consultation.

Shantai Watson, DC, BSc

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