I can’t stress enough the importance of good posture, and that’s especially true for kids. It’s not just that it makes them look and feel more alert and prepared; bad posture in childhood and adolescence can mean back pain in adulthood. Some doctors report seeing children as young as seven years old with back problems.
A major part of the problem is the ways in which our kids learn and relax. Backpacks are heavier than ever, and the chairs most schools provide make good posture very difficult to achieve. Backward sloping chairs mean students have to curve their spines forward to write on desks. Plus, all that recreational time spent hunched over a laptop, PlayStation, or iPad means young backs likely aren’t getting the support they need outside of the classroom, either.
There are things parents can do (beyond yelling) so slouchy kids don’t grow into suffering adults.
- Gentle reminders. Being conscious of good posture is the first step to maintaining it. Your kids don’t want to hear it and you may get sick of saying it, but this is where it begins.
- Make breaks a priority. We’ve all become accustomed to sitting for long periods of time, but children (and adults) benefit when they take a break from sitting. Every 20 minutes, have them get up and take a break – whether they’re watching TV or doing homework. If your child complains of pain while sitting, see a doctor.
- Have the right equipment and use it properly. Having the right setup is key. When sitting down to do homework, your child’s knees should extend about two inches from the edge of the seat. Knees should be bent at no less than 90 degrees and no more than 120 degrees with feet flat on the ground. You may want to give younger kids a footstool. Foam wedges help prevent the low spine from curving backwards.
- Try something new. Instead of making moderations to an existing chair, consider getting rid of it altogether! An exercise ball in place of a chair at a desk forces the core muscles to be engaged. Those muscles then help the back to remain straighter. Kneeling chairs take the pressure off the low back as well.
- Practice yoga. With its emphasis on body awareness and posture, yoga has plenty to teach us about how best to hold our bodies. The poses also build core strength.
Good posture isn’t just about avoiding pain. It’s been shown to improve circulation, digestion, and help us to be more focused. That’s exactly what we want for our kids as they start a new school year.