Perhaps you have noticed that some people constantly chew gum. I remember in my school days any chewing behavior was strictly forbidden. Yet, students still sneaked in gum, chewed on pencils or pens or other items. It was considered unsanitary, and of course, gum being deposited under chairs or desks was not appreciated.
Science proves chewing is anti-stress
As research has emerged, we have come to find out that chewing can reduce stress. In fact, there is something rhythmic, soothing, sensory about chewing that relaxes the brain. Since some preliminary studies in 2008, we have seen more and more evidence that chewing is a way to help reduce stress. If you think about it, it makes sense.
From birth, sucking and chewing were things babies did instinctively. Babies explored their world by putting things in their mouths: bottles, pacifiers, hands, toys…almost anything they could grasp.
Is chewing safe?
When it comes to children, there are specific concerns about chewing items being safe and sanitary. Those of us who work with children and teenagers know how easy it is for children to choke or for germs to be spread. Therefore, it is important to find items that fit the specific personality.
It is equally important to find items which can be adapted to high stress environments such as school, where there are limitations and rules that may prohibit such chewing. While a lot of gum may be advertised as therapeutic, the disposal of such gum is not something that many students will do responsibly; so, it is important that one finds acceptable alternatives.
Chewing pendants, a brain-based intervention
At Lakeside, we have used chewing pendants that can be put on a bracelet or necklace. They also come in pencil-like stick forms that are very appropriate to a school environment and are able to be sterilized. These pendants are usually made of a silicone material and are typically pretty squishy in terms of sensation. This kind of chewing toy allows children to have something to chew on that is strategically attached to them, that looks appropriate and that provides the right type of therapeutic sensation.
Once again, it is a way to be brain-based in our approach to stress management. It gives our kids options to self-regulate, relieve stress and be in charge of their own emotions. It sounds rather simplistic, doesn’t it? But something to chew on can relieve stress.
We have seen it for years in our children and now we can provide acceptable ways to make it safe and sanitary. You will find these products in many places online. If you have a child who is prone to chew things and seems to be reflecting a significant amount of stress, this may be another way to provide support to manage stress each day.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network