Q: I have an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl who are really upset by the mass violence going on. Do you have any suggestions on how to help them cope? — Sherry R., Raleigh, N.C.
A: Tough question, tough times. Each child is unique in his or her reaction, and while one child may be buoyed up by finding ways to reach out and help others, another may need one-on-one conversations to sort through feelings. In talking to experts and reading a lot about this, one thing shines through: When families and communities act together to help with the healing process, there can be positive outcomes.
Within the family, it’s important to allow children to talk about their feelings and to cry, be sad and get angry. Don’t tell them to snap out of it, but do encourage them to play and laugh.
In addition, limit exposure to violence on the news or in TV shows. Help your kids get enough sleep and top-notch nutrition. And finally ... recognize that there’s a good chance you, too, are traumatized and need to address your feelings — and not react with anger or defensiveness when your children’s emotional responses provoke ones of your own.
In the community, there’s a lot that schools and groups like the scouts or team organizations can do. Talk to school administrators and the PTA about instituting Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools for middle and high school students at https://cbitsprogram.org.
For younger children, there is a program called Bounce Back used for kids affected by the Sandy Hook shooting: https://bouncebackprogram.org.
Local mental health resources in your community are also potential partners.
Q: I take a probiotic because my gut seems less unhappy than before. Is there more I could do to make it function better? — Alan G., Dallas
A: Your microbiome is unique and complex, influenced by inherited qualities that have developed over a lifetime. Acquired gut problems can happen as a result of taking antibiotics, eating highly processed foods, suffering from chronic stress, and getting exposure to environmental toxins and hormone disruptors that impact the immune system, the lining of your intestines, and trillions of bacteria and other microbes in your gut biome.
When you feed it with probiotics, the goal is to restore a healthy balance so your gut problems are reduced or go away. That’s why there’s now a focus on how to make life easier for “good” biome-dwelling microbes and make probiotics more effective.
Fiber, metabolized by microbes in the gut, is a prime source of gut health. Studies show it promotes healthy diversity of bacteria, improves insulin resistance and lowers risk of infection and cancers. Fiber is in unprocessed fruits and vegetables and 100% whole grains — so you should have seven to nine servings of produce and two servings of whole grains daily.