Parents might express some concerns about their son’s sugar consumption, especially if that child is already struggling with behavioral issues. Many parents don’t realize that caffeine, which is hidden in soft drinks and energy drinks, are responsible for a plethora of health and behavioral issues. While parents wouldn’t give a young child a cup of coffee, they think nothing of serving them soft drinks loaded with caffeine.
Guidelines for Caffeine Consumption for Children
I had some trouble finding the official numbers for the United States’ recommended dose of caffeine for children, but Canadian guidelines state that preschoolers should have a maximum of 45 milligrams per day, about the amount found in one, 12-ounce can of soda.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, its main function is to produce energy and cause people to be more alert. If a child is already overstimulated, the effects of caffeine can be exacerbated, producing additional behavioral challenges in children who are already struggling.
Canada’s “maximum of 45 milligrams per day” is just a “safe” number. Their actual recommendation is to keep kids BELOW 45 mg of caffeine per day so serious health effects aren’t a risk. But you should ask yourself if your kids should even be having soda and caffeine on a daily basis.
In our family, we steer clear of caffeine. My wife and I learned to live without it when we saw how it’s consumption affected our children, especially our son who has a diagnosed behavioral disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder also known as RAD.
Caffeine makes the normal, daily struggles we have with my son much larger and more difficult to handle. It doesn’t only poorly affect our son with RAD, but it makes parenting more difficult with our two other children as well. When we cut out sodas and other caffeinated beverages, we cut out unnecessary stress, contention, and punishment.
Beyond emotional and behavioral effects of caffeine, there are also a few physical health risks we can avoid simply by cutting it down.
General Effects of Caffeine Use
Excessive doses of caffeine can affect children and adults alike in the following ways:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Difficulties focusing
- Difficulties sleeping
- Mood swings
- Results in a “Crash”; grumpiness and fatigue – much like a sugar high
- Stomach issues and
- Overall jitters and nervousness.
In addition, the long-term effects of the drug are still not known.
The cardiovascular effects seem to impact more boys than girls, according to a medical journal called “Pediatrics.” A study spearheaded through the University of California indicated the effects of caffeine were equal on both genders for 8- and 9-year-old children, but were stronger for boys than girls between ages 15 and 17. Older teens might suffer more because they tend to consume high-energy drinks that have a much greater caffeine content than soda or coffee that their parents drank at the same age. In fact, soda consumption among this age group has dropped but coffee and energy drink consumption has skyrocketed.
The dangers of high energy drinks, especially for children under the age of six, include seizures and life-threatening spikes in blood pressure and heart palpitations. Parents might not intentionally put these into the hands of a child, but sometimes situations occur when children find access to them.
Additional Risks of Caffeine
Caffeine can also have the following detrimental secondary effects:
- Many drinks with caffeine contain empty calories, filling the stomach with a beverage with no nutritional value. Kids replace milk and water with soda and energy drinks, depriving them of essential minerals and vitamins and also leaving more than half of America chronically dehydrated.
- Many of these caffeinated drinks contain empty calories that can also contribute to weight gain. A caffeinated soda contains 150 calories along with an estimated 10 teaspoons of sugar.
- The consumption of drinks with excessive caffeine might also lead to dental cavities as many of these drinks, such as soda, are also loaded with sugars.
- Caffeine acts as a diuretic, increasing the need to urinate and possibly contributing to dehydration, which can especially cause problems in warmer weather.
- Possibly worst of all, caffeine complicates nervous disorders, such as attention deficit disorder or hyperactive attention deficit disorder, increasing behavioral difficulties in children who are already at risk.
Obviously, the use of caffeine is a personal decision. When used in moderation, it can be beneficial for productive study sessions, improved physical performance, or it can simply help you stay alert on a long road trip. Let’s just take a second here to check our levels on intake, be sure we’re staying plenty hydrated with the good stuff – water – and set our kids up for better health and success in life.