The school year is well under way by now. Have you noticed your children’s posture as they do their homework (or watch TV or play video games, for that matter)? When we are focused on the project at hand, we often do not think about our bodies. It is all too common to see children slouching, leaning against the arm of the couch, or propping their heads up with one or both hands. Children don’t see the long-term danger in poor posture, because they are not experiencing pain yet. It has even become “cool” to be seen this way and “uncool” to use good posture. All of this can make trying to change their bad habits difficult for parents. There are some things you as a parent can do, however, to help them with their posture.
- Lead by Example: Show by your own good example what good posture looks like.
- Show Them: A mirror is a great tool to show your child what his/her posture looks like vs. healthy posture. Have your child stand looking sideways into a mirror. Point out how the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle should be in alignment. How far from that is their posture? Which areas need the most correction?
- Chair: The chair your child uses can either help or hinder their posture. The most important aspect of a chair is that it will allow his/her feet to rest flat on the floor while their knees are bent at approximately 90 degrees. This way their back does not have to try to balance with the weight of dangling feet. If all of your chairs are too tall, try putting a foot stool or wooden block under his feet. Back support is another issue. If the seat is too deep, your child is likely to slouch to try to reach the back of the chair. If you don’t have a chair that fits his body correctly, try putting a pillow behind him as he sits.
- Desk: Check the height of the desk he/she is using. Watch your child as he works. Where does the table meet his body? The desk tabletop should be at a level slightly above your child’s belly button in the middle of his torso. If the table is too low, your child will tend to slouch forward while working. If the table is too high, he/she will have to raise the shoulders (like shrugging) in order for their arms to reach their books and papers. This can cause overuse syndromes in the neck and shoulders. If the table is too high, try putting pillows under your child as he/she works. If the table is too low, try finding a lower chair to compensate. Then check to be sure this has not thrown his legs off balance. (See the last tip.)
- Set Limits: What about the other activities—video games and TV? Since most seating in our family rooms is not conducive to good posture, it is important to set time limits on these activities. Try limiting gaming to 20 minutes at a time. Set a timer; at the end of each 20 minutes, have your child get up and move around for a few minutes before going back to their game.
If you try these tips and still do not see improvement in your child’s posture, or if your child complains of pain, or has difficulty sitting still for longer periods of time, it may be that there is some underlying muscular tightness or weakness that is making it difficult for him to practice good posture. Dr.Marone can help in diagnosing the problem and help to get the body back to anatomical neutral through adjusting the spine and by recommending exercises for strengthening or stretching. It is this neutral positioning that puts the least pressure on the joints, reduces tension in our muscles, and optimizes circulation.
*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your chiropractor or physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.