So first a lesson in some food terms - a "food secure home" is a home that has readily available food in decent quantities to sustain health; a "food insecure home" is a home where food is scarce and not considered adequate to sustain health. With that being said, some new information has come to light in a new study that looked at low income homes and the relationship between kid's weights (BMI) - food availability and mom's level of stress. If you take kids in low income homes that are routinely exposed to stress - kids between the ages of 3 to 10 were more likely to be overweight in the "food secure homes."
One point to get out of the way is the obvious - if there is enough food in the home and you're a stressed child - then you can turn to food for comfort; in a home where food is scarce - you may have to turn to another "self-medicating option." But more important to me and other health experts is this notion of stressed mom and how it relates to the child's health and well-being.
Moms dealing with tight budgets and other realites that relate to those tight budgets are going to be stressed. The typical way most people deal with stress is to eat for comfort. Obviously if there is enough food, then you can overeat. And if your kids see you overeating while stressed - it then makes sense that they may also get stressed and use the very same "therapy." But the more important discussion is that mom's who suffer from chronic stress are at risk for health problems AND their stress directly impacts the health and well being of their children. Here the direct health concern is that their children can be at risk for obesity, in the "food secure homes" or at risk for other poor behaviors in a food insecure home.
So we really need to take mom's stress seriously and offer her immediate solutions. Here are some ideas:
- If you are family or a friend - offer to watch her kids for an hour so she can simply relax
- If the family struggles financially, maybe you can offer gently worn clothes, appliances or furniture that you were going to discard. Financial worries cause stress.
- If she seems to be in need of professional help, maybe you know of a free clinic or counseling service through a religious institution that you can recommend gently.
- Suggest a coffee break moment and give her the opportuniy to let off steam.
Particularly in cases where dollars are limited and financial burdens may be truly contributing to stress levels - a friend in need is a friend indeed. In additon to that, I have to encourage challenged moms to be proactive when they realize they are stressed - they do need help and they need to ask for it. Often times, well intentioned people are hesitant to offer help if the think you may be offended. If you need to make your own peace with this situation, then realize - you are no good to your kids if you are living with constant stress. It does affect them - in terrible ways - so get help for yourself - for their sake.
Published On: September 03, 2008