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Episode 2 of Incredible Family Health is out now!!
If you’d prefer to read than listen, then here’s the transcript: Transcript ep2
Living with an anxious child- Red flags

0:04 Thanks for joining me on incredible Family Health with Cheree Sheldon. I’m a naturopath, nutritionist and chef, but my most important role is Mum. I want to focus on getting your family healthy. I’ll do this by sharing tools and strategies I’ve learned to benefit my family’s well being and pass them on to you. You’ll also gain incredible insights from other professionals and parents who can help you live healthier lives.

Hello, thank you for joining me on incredible Family Health. I’m Cheree Sheldon. And I’m going to be sharing with you today meltdowns and mayhem. Living with a child with anxiety. The naturopath in me wants to know why, what’s happening? How can we help? How can we bring this back to balance.
And the mother in me really just wants my kid to not have meltdowns. So she can feel calm, and happy and balanced. I feel like it’s a process that all the family experience. All the family needs to learn new skills to help deal with a child with anxiety. So I’m going to share my experience first, as a mother. My oldest daughter, Bailey, does suffer from anxiety, her dad does also, it’s very strong in his family. Not so strong in my family as a diagnosis or recognized thing. But once I’ve been mothering Bailey, and now I know a lot of different signs of anxiety, I can definitely say my family experience this as well.
I understand the mechanism of action behind it a lot. But I never actually experienced it until after our our second daughter Erika died. And I didn’t know what was happening. And I did have that whole heart palpitations, and “what if” thinking, and for me, that was a normal grief reaction. But it gave me an insight into what my daughter and my husband experience on a day to day basis about just regular things that most people will just take in stride, for them trigger anxiety. And so for Bailey going to school was a massive source of anxiety, and going to sleep was, being outside and a bee buzzing would trigger the biggest panic attack. So she was having phobias of things, she was avoiding doing, participating in things. And that led me, as the proactive naturopathic Mum that I am, to learn all that I can about children with anxiety, so I knew how to help her the best. It’s still a learning curve! And it’s still a massive process. And I just want to share with you what I’ve learned in the hope that it might help you as well.
So let’s talk about the red flags first of all. So a child, particularly a toddler, even up to an adolescent, their language skills, or their communication skills aren’t that great to say, I feel like I’m suffering from anxiety. So the way that they express this can be completely different to the way an adult does. So they may have a fast heart, shortness of breath, dry mouth, they might have tummy aches, so often, “my tummy hurts” or having nervous diarrhea or constipation may be a sign of anxiety. They might complain of pains, chest pains is a common one. But other muscle tension because you sort of really tensing up, they might have a change in behavior and act like super super shy, be clinging, avoid participating in things particularly changing behaviors where once they were okay with something and then now they’re not. They might get dizzy, faint, might have body image problems. And that comes out with that whole comparing themselves to others causing anxiety. It’s an epidemic and we’ll probably have a whole episode in itself later on all about that. But looking at that as a Yep, that can be a red flag as well. restlessness irritability. So for us often, Bailey is having sort of anxiety and her mind is feeling very busy. Her body is also very busy so she can’t sit still at the dinner table is quite restless in class and super fidgety. Sleep is one of those ones where they might have problems falling asleep or staying asleep or their sleep might be super restless. So you know these kids that just toss and turn and toss and turn and in the morning they’re like upside down, the sheets are up halfway over the room. Something’s going on where they’re not having this beautiful rested sleep.
Phobias as well. So for my daughter, she had quite a few for a while. Particular insects. Dogs is a really common one; where kids just have this really, really big reaction to it, like it’s normal to have a reaction of, I don’t know what this thing is, am I gonna be feel safe about this. But if it causes them to like, run across the road or blind, screaming, crying, going into their room, and then not coming out for hours, then that’s a red flag sign.
And risky behavior as well. So risky behavior can occur in toddlers. And it can definitely occur in teens. And as a parent, it’s frightening to watch your child do things that are really, really risky. And sometimes it’s age appropriate growth, I’m okay mom, just chill out, and go to just, you know, breathe out and go with it. But other times it is a sign of something’s going on internally, and we need to watch what’s going on with them.
Nightmares, refusal to do stuff with the family or with school, not wanting to leave the house. There’s a thing called selective mutism. So it’s when they just will stop talking at some point. And my younger brother had this for a while in kindy. And the teachers sort of asked mom and dad to go and get his hearing tested, because he wasn’t acknowledging anything. And I remember my mom saying, Can you hear what the teacher is saying is like, yeah. And they said, The you’re not answer me said no. Why? Don’t want to? And they were like, Why? Don’t want everyone to look at me. Okay. So his way of, of dealing with pressure of maybe the whole class looking at him when he answered was pretend that he didn’t even hear and he wouldn’t even speak. So that could be a thing. Now wanting to use the toilet at school, or in public is another sign of anxiety, feeling very fidgety, wiggly and shaky. We’ve talked about that, as well.

6.54 Do you want to feel awesome again, making sure you’re showing up daily for your family,
and also helping them be the brightest, happiest versions of themselves. I’m glad you found incredible Family Health. I’m Cheree Sheldon, a naturopath here to meet you where you’re at. No judgment, no preachy diatribes. Just a safe space for you to drop in and level up your health journey with your family.

Let’s talk about the prevalence of anxiety disorders in teens. And then we’ll get a real sense of, I guess, the epidemic of this. So it’s about 25%. So at one quarter, one in four of our teens our 13 to 18 year olds, who have a anxiety disorder, and about 6% of those have a severe anxiety disorder. It does seem to be a little bit stronger in females than males. But it’s fairly split across that age group. The median onset is six, age six, kids are getting diagnosed with anxiety. And one in ten, 12 to 17 year olds harm. one in thirteen, consider suicide. And considering suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia, of 15 to 24 year olds, it makes up 1/3 of all deaths in that age group. It’s a very, very serious thing that we need to be doing things about as parents, as carers, as teachers, as a community. We really, really need to help our children deal with this. 80% of these kids aren’t getting any treatment whatsoever. And as a naturopath, as a natural medicine, Mum, treatment doesn’t need to be going to the doctor and getting medication. I mean, some kids that is life saving, and I’m not against that at all. But for me, there is so many underlying causes that can be rectified and balanced by natural medicine, that we need to look there. First, we need to shift the paradigm and make natural medicine, our primary source of health care and save the pharmaceuticals for these life saving situations.
So I’m going to do a quick science lesson, now what are neurotransmitters, and then we can talk about what they do. So they’re chemical messengers, and neurotransmitter influences a neurons in our brain in one of three ways. So they’re either excititory, inhibitory or modulatory. So what does that mean? Some of them are exciting for our brain. So that means really stimulating, say that we’ll get the good mood, the happy mood, the energy. And then we’ve got things like GABA, or serotonin, they’re inhibitory neurotransmitters, so they’re calming. They’re involved in sleep and appetite, and that calm, relaxing mood. And then we’ve got ones that modulate. So sometimes if we need a little bit more excited Satori, behavior, like in the morning, when we want to wake up and be motivated for the day, then that’s when they’ll kick in. And then at the end of the day, when it’s time to calm down, and get ready for sleep, then they’ll put those messages in place as well.
10.27 So nutrition impacts neurotransmitters enormously. So neurotransmitters are essentially made from the food we eat, the vitamins and minerals in there form the basis, the amino acids form the basis of what the neurotransmitters are doing. And sometimes if we’re deficient in vitamin or mineral, then that will make a massive impact in what the neurotransmitters can do.
11.00 Another thing that can impact that is neuroinflammation, and that’s when the brain’s inflamed. The messages won’t work effectively. So neuroinflammation is linked with things like neurodegenerative disorders, it’s linked with autism. And it can be caused by things like leaky gut, food allergies, heavy metal exposure, and there is a very strong connection with anxiety with neuroinflammation. This is that naturopath in me who wants to know why what’s happening. So what causes neuroinflammation, there could be infectious triggers, there could be non infectious triggers. So, you know, have to have a look at has your child had a infection recently, throat infection, been bitten by a tick or mosquito? Have they had a chemical exposure? Have they had lots of artificial colors recently? Is there a family history of autoimmune disorders that they might be starting to have these risk factors for that can really impact their young brains? There’s lots of lots of things, you know, how do we unpack all of that and see what’s going on. There’s a condition called pyrroles. And that’s a massive link with anxiety, the research is starting to make connections with the high levels of pyrroles in the urine, with mood disorders, that everyone has pyrroles in their body, it’s not a disease state. But some people have disordered metabolism of this, pretty much what happens is a vitamin basics and now zinc, are sort of stolen before they get to do their actual purpose, to metabolize this, this pyrrole molecule more effectively. And so then they don’t get to do their role. And one of their most important roles that basic stars and zinc does is support neurotransmitter development, and function. So it’s going to really, really impact mental health conditions, when our levels of iron, copper, zinc, basics, selenium, all of those things aren’t bought into the body at optimal levels. But then, if they’re sort of shunted off in different directions in the body, we’re going to talk about that health in another episode, and how gut and brain really, really work together. So we’ll get into a deep dive into another episode with that, but it that makes a massive difference, as well.

13:36 So how do you know if you need to get tested for pyrroles? Or, you know, how do you even get tested for it? The main sort of symptoms that are linked with that are things like, really, really quick to anger, sensory sensitivities. Remember, I’ve had a lot of child clients over the years, and they are sensitive to different clothes they put on or food sensory issues, so they wouldn’t go near a complete texture of foods. Then for me, that’s a big red flag that pyrroles is coming into play here. Sensitivity to smells, and to sounds, so if you’re out and something’s really loud, and your kid starts to really play up or really start to melt down or like their behavior changes and you’re like, what is going on? Then perhaps it’s the way that their body is not really supported by enough zinc or b6 because it’s being stolen from another pathway in their body, that they’re super, super sensitive to that. Morning nausea is another thing, definitely light intolerance. And particularly I’ve noticed for people that can’t handle the fluorescent lighting, so maybe they’re okay when you go out to the beach or the park in sunlight, but if you go to a shopping center, and it’s got a bright fake lights all the time, then the behavior changes and you’re like, I don’t know what’s happened to my child, where are they, then this is something that you can investigate as well, a physical sign that you can look at for zinc intolerance or not intolerance, zinc deficiency is looking at their fingernails and seeing if there’s any white spots on them. That’s not a diagnosis, but it’s just a sign that we can use, together with all of the other symptoms, to know whether this is worth investigating.
15.35 So when we look at all of that together, you can say, okay, yep, my child fits into that picture. It’s worth investigating and, No, that’s not my child, there must be something else. And that’s how we unpack it. So if you go and see a naturopath, pretty much, that’s the process that we work in. It’s like an elimination thing of, Okay, tell me the picture, tell me what’s happening. And then we work through the possible causes, see if there’s any testing involved that can confirm that. And then, really, really target treatment based on that. It’s not a one size fits all, my child’s got anxiety, and go, Oh, here, I’ve got a supplement called “child anxiety”, doesn’t work like that. And we all know, our health journeys are unique, our children are no different. And the causes of anxiety, unfortunately, are so complex and can be multi multifaceted. There is that process of elimination.
16.37 So let’s talk about another one. Another possible cause is our microbiome. So, microbiome, the population of bacteria, fungi, and yeast that live on and in our bodies. There is more bacteria in our bodies living there than there are actual body cells, and they do a powerful job. And there is a massive link between our gut health in our brain health. And as I said before, I’m going to do a whole episode on that. So we won’t go into massive detail about it now, but if your kid has digestive issues, on top of that, that may be a red flag as well.
17.20 Want some of my great recipes and more info to help your incredible Family Health? Check out That is C, H,E,R, E,E, S, H, E, L,D, O,

17.34 Last episode, we talked about day dot, our genetic expression that comes from preconception. And what happened in in utero may impact our children and their anxiety. So maternal stress can impact what’s happening when the baby’s developing inside, in utero. And it can impact the area of the brain called the hippocampus. If we’ve got reduced levels of Choline, which is a really, really important nutrient that “most” pregnant women are deficient in, then that can reduce this hippocampus development, and the baby can be born with a higher risk of anxiety. I remember when my daughter Bailey was born, and I went to mother’s group, there was 10 of us, we’re all first time mums. And one of the mums had a baby who had colic. And I remember her saying, It’s like he was born with anxiety. And we were like, Oh, no, you know, that’s not a thing. Everyone was trying to comfort her and say, you know, everything will be alright. And when I learned about this, about how the genetic expression of our children can be turned on or off, depending on what’s happening with our maternal stress, instantly, I thought of this Mum, because her pregnancy was so stressful for her. And I do believe that she was correct when she said the baby was born with anxiety, because her pregnancy stress would have really, it would flick that switch. But we can override it. Now. It’s not like you go, Oh, well, it’s your fault. There’s nobody saying that. But knowing the risk factors and saying, Okay, this is why things may have happened. We can target how to support that. So we know that using Choline and creatine, I can help that development in pregnancy. But using that sort of same therapies without children, then we can see that that makes a difference as well. Genetic predispositions and environmental factors combined, can really really make a mental health Beep storm. So there is a lot of genes The mthfr gene that we spoke about last time, DAO gene, COMT, there’s so many that are linked with mental health conditions. And environmental factors play a big part.
So stress, let’s talk about stress. Yeah, stress can be physical stress. So when I was pregnant, I had hyperemesis gravidarum. If you don’t know what that is, that’s the severe severe morning sickness, I vomited day night, for months and months. That’s physical stress. And that definitely would have impacted the epigenetic expression of my unborn child, when I had that. Then mental health stress. So whether it is a perceived stress of like, Am I going to be a good mother, or my How am I going to cope with this job when I’m feeling this unseen clients and I have to run out and vomit, all of that stress, your body responds the same way, creates the same hormones, whether it is a physical stress, or a mental stress. They do the same thing, and will create that same mental health storm. Now, what we need to do to help, is learn better stress management techniques, and roll with it better as a society and as as individuals. And we’ll talk about that in future episodes, as well. But to help our children, to help ourselves, we do need to learn it together often. So sometimes you’ll be learning about how mindfulness or meditation may help your child, but you’ve never done it as well. So I highly recommend as a mom, as a dad, as a carer, that you practice it at the same time and role model that we practice together as a family. To say, Yeah, my nine year old may be recommended that you know, she does a meditation, then I’m going to get the three year old involved with it as well. And I’m going to do it as well. And I want the dad to do it as well, you know. So it’s a family thing now. We literally need to make a toolbox that we can carry with us wherever we go, to help when these meltdowns and this mayhem occurs, because often they happen at places that are completely unexpected. And you don’t have anything with you. And that stresses you out as a carer even more. And to have a little thing on hand where you can go right, I’m just going to dip in here, here’s something to play with here’s some playdough to squeeze. Lots of sensory things really, really help kids with anxiety. So things that they can, you know, get their hands in, and or chew on or crunch or play with or listen makes a difference. And you’ve got to find out what works for your kid that sometimes you’ll give them something in it. And it may make things bigger, before they calm down. And you’re like, Okay, that was the wrong tool to give. There won’t be doing that again. And sometimes you’re like, oh, my goodness that bought them out of that fast. That’s gonna work every single time. And unfortunately, it won’t. Because your kid will know what’s coming. And they were like, Oh, no, this again. And that’s just what they do, don’t they?
23.31 So I’m going to share with you what’s in what’s been in my toolkit over the years and what we have in it now. So sometimes when Bailey was a toddler, we’d often have the little shakers. I would make little sensory shakers for her. So you get an empty water bottle, and you’d fill it up with glitter, or beads or feathers, anything put either you know water or baby oil in something in it. And that would shake it up. And sometimes you can go “Okay, I want you to watch all the glitter swirling around. That’s what you’re feeling inside the moment. Now as the glitter calms down and settles down, feel everything calm down in your body as well”. Teach them that this is a tool and a link that they can do. And what I did with Bailey was every night we would do a meditation and often do the breathing within that meditation and use some sort of key words that were happening with triggers in her life at that point. So maybe when she was freaking out about bees, I would put a bee in the meditation and the bee would be friendly and visit and help, you know, make the flowers bloom and make it nice, and that would have a positive link for her. And we practice those breathing things. So if a moment came when she was going to have a meltdown, or a panic attack, then I’m not trying to teach her to breathe in that moment. We’ve already practiced calm. So in that moment, I can say, okay, “imagine above your head, a beautiful, beautiful star, the Stardust is traveling all over your body and making you feel calm and relaxed”. And it would help her get into that calm state quicker than if I tried to do that in a panic attack and she’d never heard what I was saying before. So that is part of your toolbox is those the skills to practice every night. A another thing that I would I would do is have a little herbal tonic on hand. So you can go and see your local herbalist, and say, Okay, my child’s having these moments, and I would just want to have something on hand in that moment that I can give to them, that will help relax instantly. So my herbal tonic would often be like, you know, maybe chamomile or lemon balm, passionflower, something that will really ease them down straight away. We’re fortunate now that we can access herbal tonics that are alcohol free. There’s a wonderful company called optimal RX that makes these alcoholic free tinctures. And they’re perfect for kids, they taste beautiful. We can use herbal teas as well. But I mean, in that moment, you often don’t want to have to wait for a tea to brew. But I remember when Bailey was having big moments, frequently, I would have an iced tea ready to go. And I would often have a bath tea as well.
26.35 So a bath tea is a really you make a bath tea the same as you would a normal tea. So you get your Herbs and you brew it in a teapot root super duper strong, and then you pour that brew into the bath. And as a toddler, they’re going to splash around, toddlers do tend to drink the bathwater. So they’re going to take some of those calming Herbs in the smell as well surrounds them, it does make them feel really nice and calm, that really helps. Having maybe a spray as well that you can have in your toolbox. So if they are having a moment, you can get like lavenders favorite for most people. But you know, some kids with sensory issues don’t react well to that. So you can find out what works for your child or not. So having a spray with some essential oils, or using something like bach flowers or bush flowers. And, and helping them you know, have a few drops of that calm down. Sometimes I would just rub things in to kids temples or in their hairline. And that can help them get out of it. Bubbles really works, like distraction therapy. Music, they are things that can really, really help. Another thing to put in into your toolbox is some printouts of some shapes. And you can get your child in that moment to trace the shapes with their fingers. And breathing in and out as part of that process. And perhaps have a little another little printout with a reminder to do an exercise, which is you go Okay, tell me five things that you can see. And they have to come out of their brain and go into their body to do that. Okay, so I can see microphone and see my computer, I can see a window, I can see a plant, I can see a book. Yep, tell me four things that you can smell. And then this takes them a little bit of concentration or four things that I can hear or taste, go through the senses. And by the end of that they should have come out and be feeling a lot calmer. That’s what I use in our toolkit. And when my kids were, when Bailey was a toddler is to take it round with us in the nappy bag have always have things on hand in case of meltdown. Now that she’s older, she tends to wait to have the meltdowns at home. Home is a safe place for her and they often don’t happen anywhere else. So when we talk to her teacher at school, she is a completely different person at school then at home. And that’s super duper common for these kids with with anxiety. We’ll talk about a few other triggers for anxiety and kids next time. And we’ll talk about tools. We’ll talk about testing. We’ll get into Nitty gritties with diet, all sorts of things.
Thank you for joining me with this episode. My second episode on incredible Family Health with Cheree Sheldon, hope out of all of that information, something has resonated with you and your child journey with anxiety and that can set you on a path to really improve that straightaway. Thanks.
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