Spring Break and Restoring Balance

It was so much fun hanging out with my boy over spring break! We explored our city, each others’ interests, and new foods. He did ask me what a vending machine was, which at age 7, seems to represent the low level of processed foods in our life. My boy is really into plants versus zombies at the moment, so we created clay figures of pea shooters, made up zombie songs, and had carnivorous plant conversations. Blowing up balloons and letting them collapse while flying around the room takes days and days to get over laughing about, evidently, as does family dancing to Madagascar’s Afro-circus, Afro-circus, polka dot, polka dot! We also visited the spring break locations that have been on our list like the indoor playground, the new library, and downtown museums. We even found time to help out at our local homeless shelter. We talked a lot about how all these places fit into society.

I think it is important for kids to know how they fit into society, too. As babies, our kids think the world is just mom and food; their idea then expands to include the home and frequently traveled paths. As the world gets bigger for them, they go back and forth between feeling comfortable in their world and panicking when they realize it is even bigger! I tell my son what ‘a lucky duckie’ he is to have me to teach him how to be well and how he fits into the world.

There is a recent study in Nature that describes how social structures for kids can affect how long they live. Those kids growing up in advantaged homes have longer ‘telomeres,’ which represent the ability of the body to repair damaged DNA. Shortened telomeres show more damage, less repair of DNA, and thus shorter life. Kids from lower income households, less educated parents, harsh parents, and unstable family structures consistently had shorter telomeres.

There are other studies that show that perception has a lot to do with the internalization of stress by children. If they feel they have the resources they need, they are more likely not to be adversely affected by their circumstances. On the other hand, if they are constantly worrying about instability and are in need, excess stress is put on the body and psyche. Some children grow up always searching for what they perceive they need and continue to look for it as adults. Gratitude and resourcefulness within a low income family with less funds can lower the stress impact on a child. You can indeed feel rich, blessed, lucky, or whatever your word may be regardless of situation. We have all heard the stories. Many of us have lived them. The take home message is that our children need nourishment in so many forms: food, confidence, stimulation, understanding, using the resources that they do have and oh… what is that word? Love!

Spring break for us was a great time for me to talk about balance with my munchkin. Balance in trying new things while keeping some routine. Balance in the foods our body needs daily with a few treats (like gluten free-pizza!) that come with life. Balance in being content with what we have, helping others, and saving or striving for the things we really, really want. Balance in getting the chores done or ‘getting bossed around’ and then getting to make the planned schedule for ‘family time.’ Breaks are a great time to reinvest in the balance of things. Connection with all our relationships is so important and kids are often more cooperative and invested in the family when we just take time. I hope your spring break was full of exploration, nourishment, and balance!

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