Regular family meals can help children with asthma

Barbara Fiese, professor of human and community development and director of the University of Illinois’ Family Resiliency Center and colleagues wanted to assess whether asthma severity, as measured by pulmonary testing and by reported asthma symptoms, is related to the development of separation anxiety symptoms in children and whether  family interaction patterns influence this relationship.

The researchers felt that  family members play an important role in helping children emotionally manage their asthma symptoms, and that a supportive, organised environment during meals puts a child at ease whereas a chaotic, unresponsive atmosphere upsets them.

In the six-week study, 63 9-–12-year-old children with persistent asthma completed questionnaires and were interviewed about their physical health and their mental heath, including whether they suffered from separation anxiety. The researchers found that there was a significant relationship between separation anxiety and lung function and that this was particularly evident at meal times: symptoms of separation anxiety were much more evident during chaotic, disorganised meals than during calm, well organised, family meals.

Shared family meals are important because few other family activities are repeated with such regularity, allowing children to build up expectations about how their parents and siblings will react. As a result, children develop a sense of security which is important for a child who feels vulnerable.The repetitive nature of mealtimes also allows parents of children with a chronic health condition to regularly check on their symptoms, quickly remind them to take medications, and plan ahead for the next day's events.

The researchers also found that it is also important that parents and family members show genuine concern about the activities each child is involved in, that problems aren't discussed at the table and that there's an element of planning ahead so that children know an adult is on top of their situation.

When all this occurs, children with asthma may begin to see their symptoms as less threatening and their lung function may improve as a result.

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Feb 2010

Courtesy of Medical News Today

First Published Febuary 2010

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