Modalities for Teenagers:
At about age 15 we are given the chance to begin to develop civility. The sensory-motor system of infancy, the limbic-emotional system of preschool, and the verbal-intellectual system of grade school, have stabilized. The prefrontal cortex takes center stage and begins its final burst of development. The initial phase of its development began towards the end of the first year of life and all along continued developing in parallel with the three main parts of the brain, acting as the great orchestrator of a marvelous symphony. This is the culmination of the neurological blue print. It houses our greatest human attributes: altruism, higher analytical abilities, and wisdom. It is the part of the brain that most makes us human.
Its existence is fragile and vulnerable. Because it connects to all the main centers of the brain, damage or dysfunction to any part of the brain affects its function. Late adolescence is a crossroads. When things go well and a caring adult is able to model the behavior, a young person becomes filled with a sense of mission and purpose, takes up causes, believes deeply in their dreams, sees that they matter and develops a profound sense of themselves as a powerful agent in the world.
When Things Go Wrong
If the brain centers below are not fully developed, if there are gaps in the structure, emotional or physical traumas, injuries, or if insufficient adult modeling is available, this time of radical prefrontal expansion will not complete the circuits necessary for whole brain, whole body functioning. Young people at this age especially need care and attention. Good modeling cannot be underestimated. A recent study showed that children who sit down to family meals and engage in family conversation are higher academic achievers.
If a teenager is shut down, joyless, addicted to the computer, involved in self-destructive behaviors, they need extra care. It becomes detective work teasing out what might be wrong. Emotional issues may manifest as physical issues, and vice versa. They need to be listened to, engaged and helped over the hump into adulthood. Several alternative modalities are especially good for this age and can help the young person to fill in neurological gaps, create new ways of thinking and find their sense of self.
Analogous to the massive development of the immune system in early childhood, the endocrine system busts into action at puberty. The body undergoes a huge shift physically, psychologically, and emotionally. The changing emotional and physical landscape can be very unsettling for a child. Some alternative therapies can be immensely helpful with this all important transition to adulthood.
Modalities for Teenagers:
The Latin root of the word “adolescence” means “coming into the light.” Through the physical and mental changes of puberty, adolescents are growing into a sense of what it means to be grown: To begin take responsibility for their actions. To recognize the integrity of other individuals as separate from themselves. To form respectful relationships with others. To experience the agency of their own power, and to learn to regulate that power.
The Brain Gym® balance is an incredible empowerment tool for teenagers. Early in the session, teenagers choose a goal for themselves. Sometimes the goal is clear immediately; sometimes we spend some time talking, ferreting out what is most important to them at that moment. It can be a physical goal, related to a recent injury or a longtime pain. It can be an emotional goal, related to stressful situations with family or friends, or an old, unhealed trauma. It can be about performance enhancement – improving at a sport, intellectual or arts activity. It can be related to their spiritual life. It can be anything they care about.
Next, they perform a simple activity: walking across the floor. Thinking about a problem. Playing a few notes on the piano, doing a yoga posture, writing their name – it can be anything they choose to do. By noticing the way it feels to perform this activity, they have a benchmark for their experience of themselves “before.” Later, we will return to it as “after,” and see how it has changed. Too often, when something becomes easy, we can’t remember how hard it used to be! By creating a benchmark and taking note of it, teenagers can recognize, own, and celebrate their progress.
Next, we do the transformational activities. These can be anything: craniosacral therapy. Musical improvisation. Listening to tuning forks. Talking. Brain Gym® activities. Then, we return to the activity, and celebrate the goal. We check to see if the teenagers have “homeplay“ - something they need to do after the session to reinforce and maintain the goal.
Over time, as teens see themselves achieving goal after goal, they begin to internalize the goal-setting process. Simply knowing that they have the power to change their lives – in both small and large ways – is a lifelong gift of empowerment.
Some Brain Gym® processes are particularly helpful for teenagers. Working with dominance profiles, for example, can give a teen both an understanding of who they naturally are, and how they’ve adjusted to their circumstances – as well as giving practical ways to access their inner selves. For example, I’ve had teenagers write about a difficult situation (their words are private; I don’t read them) with the currently dominant right hand – and then with the non-dominant left hand. Often, they find that they are expressing their emotions more freely with the left hand – which makes neurological sense, since the left hand “talks” to the right hemisphere of the brain. Their “homeplay” is usually to keep a left-handed journal. There are many other ways different Brain Gym® processes can help teenagers release blocks and come into their power.
[more about Brain Gym®]
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When is chiropractic helpful for teenagers?
Axial Stability Method, the chiropractic technique practiced exclusively the Lydian Center, is appropriate for all ages. Our unusual, entirely low-force approach is helpful for many problems if the underlying issue is physical injury. During the teen years physical activity becomes more organized and usually competitive: sports injuries, skiing, sledding and snowboarding, repetitive injuries from track, running and wrestling are just a few.
Many young people already struggling with hidden biomechanical injuries from the past are even more prone to getting injured further. They tend to be less coordinated, have poorer balance, less efficiently developed motor patterns and less developed proprioceptive skills. They may be shy and less able to participate socially, unable to focus and prone to hyper activity, unable to process new learning, or unpleasant, uncooperative and a bully. These young people have more gaps in their sensory-motor, emotional, or verbal-intellectual neural networks.
If biomechanical injury is the root cause of these gaps, chiropractic can be a helpful intervention. Emotional irritability and frustration, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, learning disabilities, are signs that there might be underlying biomechanical injury. Stabilizing the structural system through chiropractic treatment can allow the body to fill in some of these neurological network gaps.
Occasionally a teen complains of recurring headaches or chronic musculoskeletal pain. The most common complaints with this age group are headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and sore knees. No young person should be in chronic pain. Chronic pain is a sign of injury and should not be ignored. Early intervention can save a lifetime of complaints.
Hormonal discomfort and irregularity with the young female endocrine system can also benefit tremendously from chiropractic. Often correcting underlying structural instabilities, especially in the pelvis, allows the endocrine system to find an even keel.
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Craniosacral therapy is good for teenagers for the same reason it is good for any age, from babies to seniors. There are times when structural misalignment, muscle spasms, and blocks in the connective tissue can cause symptoms from pain to irritation to mental fuzziness, from vertigo and nausea to fear and anxiety. This can be due to both acute, recent injury, or old injuries that may not even have been remembered or identified. By tracking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid with a very light touch, craniosacral therapy can realign the structure subtly and powerfully, and release emotions stored in the tissues.
Often, with teenagers, we have conversations as I do cranial work. It’s like being at the hairdresser – the feeling of relaxing and being taken care of, with someone’s gentle hands on your head, creates a freer flow of feeling into words. My job is to release the emotions as they come up through the body, so that the teen is no longer carrying the memory of the injury – either physical or emotional.
Sometimes, I will improvise some music and record especially for the teenager, as they lie on the table after some cranial work. This allows them to take the healing energy of the session home as a CD they can play any time they need to feel that support and caring.
[more about craniosacral therapy]
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When is Homeopathy helpful for Teenagers?
Teenagers are most often treated homeopathically for problems in school –emotional problems like low self-esteem, test anxiety, or the effects of bullying; cognitive problems such as lack of memory or concentration; or behavioral problems like not sitting still, or defying the teacher and disrupting the class. Girls can also be supported through the hormonal tides of menarche. Homeopathic remedies do not add any natural or artificial hormones to the system but rather teach the body to find its own balance. Homeopathy can also help with other hormonal problems like lack of a period, excessive bleeding, painful cramps, and (in both boys and girls) acne.
Homeopathy is also especially effective at treating psychosomatic expressions of school stress, like headaches or diarrhea that tend to strike the morning of a big exam. It can even be helpful with the typical challenges of the shifting tides of friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends.
Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body’s healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. Young people don’t mind taking them, as they taste like little sugar pills. They are safe enough that teenagers (depending on their maturity) can be responsible for their own dosing. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a young person swallows a whole bottle by mistake.
In addition to treating the chronic conditions just mentioned, Begabati or Cindy can evaluate young people for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their kids at home the next time.
For more information: Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman’s excellent series of books Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids and Homeopathy for Autism and Aspberger’s.
[more about homeopathy]
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Just as teenagers require more sleep they also require substantial nutrients for growing bodies. Quality protein sources will provide important amino acids for growth, repair, antibody and hormone production. Eating a quality diet rich if fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good fats has many payoffs including better resistance to colds and flus, increased energy and improvement in test scores.
Excess sugar often consumed by teenagers lowers immune function and causes blood sugar disturbances which can lead to poor focus and concentration in the classroom.
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