By Nancy Monson and Douglas Wisoff
Parents… there is one thing that you can be sure of: your children are watching your every move! We all notice how much families look alike, but take some time to notice how much they MOVE alike. Why is this? The body is the instrument through which children make contact with, and learn about the world. By imitating what they see with posture and movement, they are gaining a physical and emotional understanding of the important people in their lives. Consciously and unconsciously, children try on for size everything that we do. Physical modeling is so direct, and starts at such a young age, that the ultimate responsibility for children’s posture lies with mom and dad. And, posture is a crucial component in how children learn, experience themselves and interact in life.
Posture effects every way we move, our whole range of motion, and what we can and can’t do. Good posture means a body that works efficiently, moves with grace and ease, stands tall, upright, and is open and relaxed. When the chest is unrestricted, breathing is easier, which brings in more oxygen, and results in more energy and mental clarity. This increases focus, attention and the ability to learn new skills. There is no doubt that kids with good posture have an advantage in sports, and often exude an air of confidence. Good posture also has a positive effect in classroom learning, and in social relating as well. How we move – how we think – how we feel – how we act – it is all connected.
What leads to poor posture? If we really take a good look, we will observe that many children and adults can not sit or stand up straight. They have hunched shoulders, caved in chests, walk with a shuffle or without self-assurance and generally look down. If we look at young children, most of them are still what I call, “in their bodies,” and greet life with enthusiasm and openness. What happens that changes this?
- Children slowly take on their parents physical stances which also include the emotional correlations.
- Physical skills can be developed poorly, in the wrong order, or prematurely causing strains and stresses in the structural and muscular foundation.
- Schools pay almost no attention to posture and actually often contribute to children developing poor posture. The problems are numerous. They include poorly designed chairs and desks, playgrounds that limit how children use their bodies, over emphasis on academic or other specialized forms of achievement, role models who have faulty posture themselves, and PE classes that favor the kids who already demonstrate a higher potential for developing skills because the foundation of good posture is already in place.
- Too much watching TV., playing video games or sitting at a computer, and children not being taught good posture when they do these activities.
- Either too tight, or too loose and baggy clothing that restricts movement.
Shoes that are too high or too big that make kids ungrounded or awkward.
How is good posture developed? There are several components:
The first and primary component is adults modeling good posture. The saying, “As it begins, so it goes,” is so true.
- When kids are allowed to be physically active and to play using all of their muscles, it creates more balance in the entire body. For example, allowing children to run, jump, climb, throw, kick, swing, roll, crawl, dance, ride bikes, dig with shovels and anything else that children love to do, lets them fully experience the joy and vitality that is naturally part of a healthy body. This includes getting kids out in nature regularly.
- Children often react to stress in a very direct physical way. Be aware of this and help children deal with stressful situations.
- Let children develop motor skills at appropriate ages and time frames (for example not pushing children to walk sooner than they are ready).
- Become aware of furniture that fosters good or poor posture which effects how children sit, eat or study.
- If your child participates in sports, find a coach who really understands body bio-mechanics and encourages all children to develop their capacities. The right sport with the right coach can really help kids develop confidence and feel the joy of being more in their bodies, resulting in improved posture.
It really is up to us as adults to understand the importance of good posture, and to work on our own posture. Even if we grew up with poor posture, if we are working to correct it, we give our children the chance to grow up with better posture than ours. Often our aches and pains come from how we have used our bodies incorrectly most of our lives. It would be such a gift if our children didn’t have those same aches, pains and limitations, and instead, as they grow, continue to feel the incredible joy and power that comes from being centered, balanced and integrated in their bodies.
On Thursday, November 15th, from 5:30-7:00pm, there will be a presentation on kids and posture at Running River School, in Lafayette. The three presenters have years of training and experience in working with children and adults. There will be specific and practical information, experiential exercises, and a chance to ask questions and have a discussion. Call 303-499-2059 for more information or go to www.runningriver.org.
Douglas Wisoff is a physical therapist and works with adults and children of all ages. Nancy Monson is the Director of Running River School and Homestar Child Development Center.