Creating a Healthy Family Dynamic
With stimulation overwhelming them from school, home, friends and technology, children are more stressed than ever before. Amanda Hinman, co-founder of the Hinman Holistic Health Institute with her husband, Mike, says children need a holistic approach that addresses how they eat, live and learn in order to grow and thrive. “When your body is in balance, your mind is able to open up to the possibilities within,” she says.
Hinman, with a background in the holistic health and exercise industries, is a health coach who studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. As an author, she is celebrating the release of her new book, Vibrant Child: 7 Steps to Increase Your Child’s Health & Happiness. Hinman’s approach to health looks at overall wellness for the children and the family, which includes nutrition, activity, down time, relationships, stress management and gratitude. She’s seen it work firsthand after her oldest daughter suffered from chronic seizures for which doctors could not find the cause.
“I knew there was something much deeper going on than just a physical reaction. The seizures were brought on by anxiety, and conventional medication couldn’t control them,” says Hinman. The family made lifestyle changes that greatly improved their overall dynamic, and today her daughter is seizure-free. Hinman uses that experience as a guide to help other families. Through private coaching sessions, workshops, speaking events and other outreach, she and her team assist parents with strategies, beliefs and a community that supports wellness.
When parents approach Hinman to help with their children, it could be for a number of reasons. Often, there’s something not quite right in the family dynamic and with how the child is thriving. “We see a lot of children with ADHD, anxiety, depression, ear infections, learning disorders, allergies and seizures. Many are picky eaters or have hypersensitivities to sensory stimulation. But my client is really the parent—usually the mother—who comes to me overwhelmed, exhausted, uncertain and even guilty that she doesn’t know how to best support her child. My goal is to make them feel empowered, rather than hopeless,” says Hinman.
Nutrition plays a key role in the way a child’s body and brain develop. Hinman stresses eating real, whole foods whenever possible, and acknowledges that everybody has different nutritional needs, depending on their lifestyle. “Food is information for our body. Because our body is constantly regenerating, the information we give our bodies via food affects the way it functions. See where you can add in nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods that contain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids,” she recommends.
Hinman also stresses that parents need to be a unified force and exhibit consistency in messages, beliefs, thoughts and actions. “Creating an intention and focus for your family helps open the lines of communication. Parents need to take time and discuss what the family priorities are, what health means for the family and what living a truly happy life for everyone looks like,” she says.
Relaxation is vital for everyone in the family, but especially young people that are still developing. “Children are becoming increasingly overscheduled. They shuffle from soccer practice to violin lessons to sleepovers to study groups with very little down time in-between. They don’t have time to play and explore. This lack of unstructured creativity and down time can lead to chronic, negative stress,” says Hinman. She suggests mindfully taking a break every day from phones, computers, television, music and even things like scented lotion, which makes our olfactory system kick in when we may be trying to sleep or relax.
Attitude is perhaps the largest component in a happy and healthy family dynamic. Expressing gratitude is a practice that Hinman says should be part of the daily routine for everyone. “Take a moment before bed to talk to your children about what happened that day. What’s one good thing that happened to them, or one way they helped someone else? What are they grateful for? Showing appreciation for things in our everyday lives can make us more resilient when things do go wrong,” she notes.
Having a nurturing, safe, home environment in which family members have open communication and are loved and accepted for who they are will encourage children to flourish. “One of the greatest roles we can do as parents is to facilitate our children learning what makes them unique. Once they understand themselves better, they can do anything. They know how to create the best lifestyle for themselves,” says Hinman.
For more information, call 312-316-3689 or visit Hinmans.com. See ad on page 23.
Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.