School is out: but why do some children struggle to adapt to a holiday routine?
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School is out: but why do some children struggle to adapt to a holiday routine?

For most kids in the UK, the academic year has just finished.  It’s certainly unusual for the summer holidays to start with such amazing weather and most of us will be hoping it continues.  While many kids will be relishing the end of the school routine, and the idea of some fun and downtime, for others it is a different story.

Some children that come to the clinic for acupuncture struggle a lot with any change in their routine, and especially with the loss of routine.  Parents report that these children can become anxious and/or grumpy, and that their behaviour deteriorates.  Some of these children, but certainly not all of them, are on the autistic spectrum.

So why would it be that for some the loss of routine is so challenging?  I find that most children who struggle in this way have an imbalance in the qi of their Liver (this does not mean there is anything wrong at all with their actual liver organ – we are talking about energetics not about the physical).   If the qi in the Liver meridian is not flowing smoothly, it can make it difficult for a child to show flexibility and to adapt to a change in their life.  The Liver, in Chinese medicine, is often called ‘the planner’ and is compared to the general in an army who creates a strategy.  When term time ends, and there is a sudden loss of structure, Liver qi may be slow to adapt and the child may feel  ‘all at sea’ without the comfort of their usual schedule.  While structure and routine can, at times, feel restrictive, it can also provide a rhythm and order which is supportive.

The difference between term time and holiday time is stark but sometimes these children may even struggle to smoothly transition between their weekday and weekend schedule.  So, apart from having acupuncture, what can we do to help?

It is often beneficial to make sure that the child gets up at the same time in the morning and goes to bed at the same time in the evening, as they would during term term.  Meals should ideally also be at the same time.  And, while parents may relish the idea of being able to have lots of relaxed and unstructured time at home, it may be sensible to schedule in some kind of activities during the first days of the holidays.  It’s a really important time for a child with this kind of imbalance to move a lot and be outside.  These things will help to free-up the flow of their Liver qi, allowing them to more easily adapt.   Finally, ensuring that the child’s diet does not contain any food additives, too much sugar and is not too fatty or greasy is also important.  Gradually, over a couple of weeks (or less or more time, depending on the child), the routine can gradually be eased into one that is more suitable for the holidays.

So, whether you are holidaying in sunny-old England, or flying off to exotic climes, I hope you all have a great summer.

Rebecca Avern

I have been practising acupuncture for 15 years. As well as practising in Oxford, I am both a senior lecturer and clinical supervisor at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine (www.cicm.org.uk) which is the biggest acupuncture training centre in Europe. I have treated both adults and children and whilst the benefits of acupuncture for adults are well-known and well-documented, fewer people are aware of how it can benefit children. I decided that I wanted more children to experience the benefits of acupuncture, and so decided to set up The Panda Clinic. I have to admit to having another motivation - I love being around children and derive great satisfaction when I see children recover from ill health. I am mother to 2 primary school age children. As well as being an experienced acupuncturist, as a parent I have a good understanding of the stress and anxiety that an ill child can induce. I will always do my best to communicate with the parent(s) of a child I am treating as thoroughly and clearly as I can.