Raising Children Naturally
What does it take to become a natural parent? Recently, my daughter came down with a very high fever. To be honest, I was petrified. In these acute situations, options can seem so limited. For as long as I can remember, I have been an advocate of natural parenting. Even before my husband and I had children, it has been a passion of mine. But it wasn’t until we had our children, that I realized firsthand the ‘ins and outs’ of parenting. I have discovered that natural parenting is about trusting our ‘natural instincts’. When our kids are doing okay, it is easy to follow our gut and not rely heavily on more conventional interventions. In fact, this is the perfect time to develop a strong preventative strategy that incorporates many of the strategies listed in this article. But when our children are doing poorly, especially in an acute situation, it may feel particularly difficult to trust ourselves.
For a long time, there has been a wide separation between natural parenting and more conventional approaches that so many families adopt. Is this because of lack of information? Or is it because so often, it feels like we have to choose one path or the other? Natural parenting is about incorporating natural strategies into our family life and home. It is about being open to information and always being the primary advocate for our children. It is not about shunning western medicine. In fact, it can be much more then that—it can be the best of both worlds. In particular, in a time of crisis, we can choose to adopt a wide array of interventions, including alternative and conventional, with the hopes of doing the least harm with the best long term results.
What does it take in today’s world to raise a child naturally? A good place to start is in your home. Transforming your home into a natural one can be easy when following simple guidelines.
How to Change Your Home to a Natural Home
Making the choice to raise your child naturally can seem like an enormous task. Tackling one category at a time is a helpful strategy. A good place to start is to create an inventory of what you have in your home that is synthetic; then, slowly replace these products one by one. Almost everything today has a natural substitute. Some examples:
1. Replace synthetic cleaners and detergents in your home with natural versions such as Seventh Generation brand. Even a simple change such as this can lead to significant benefits. For my own family, when we changed laundry detergents, the ‘sleep issue’ became easier. My son began to sleep longer through the night, I was less restless, and my husband, with a history of asthma, had an easier time breathing. I even noticed how I no longer itched at night!
2. Replace your child’s soap and shampoo with a natural version such as Tom’s of Maine or California Baby brand. So often, we take for granted some of the symptoms that we deal with on a day to day basis. Changing the brand of soap that you use to a more natural one can eliminate previously irresolvable issues such as daily redness or rashes on the face and even residual cradle cap on your child’s head.
3. Make the choice to only buy clothing for your child made mostly with natural fibers such as cotton or wool, rather than polyester or acrylic.
4. Buy produce that is organic or natural and free of pesticides and growth hormones. It is true that organic foods are more expensive. Hopefully, one day, this will change. One option is to search for a local ‘CSA’ or community supported agriculture co-op farm that sells memberships. These farms will provide you with great natural produce through the warm months of the year and often they provide a winter share as well.
5. Eliminate soda pop and candy in the house. It may be challenging to avoid sweets altogether but making a rule of no candy in the house is a great way to start.
6. Choose foods that are free of high fructose corn syrup and other added sweeteners, chemicals, partially hydrogenated oils commonly referred to as “trans fats”, and genetic modification (GMO). Searching for recipes that can be modified to include natural sweeteners is another helpful strategy. Sugar and other synthetic sweeteners in most recipes can be substituted by natural sweeteners, for example: maple syrup, honey, palm or coconut sugar and raw agave. Searching for these natural ingredients in packaged foods is a great first step. As for GMO foods, there is growing research that is illustrating the negative effects of genetic modification. In fact, GMO foods are outlawed in most European countries. The challenge in this country is that genetic modification is not listed on labels. Some foods that are typically genetically modified in this country include corn and soy. Currently, buying ‘organic’ means non-GMO.
Ultimately, this process comes down to ‘reading labels’. As a parent, this process can seem even more challenging because it begs the question, “Do I need to change my own habits?” For a child, the most important factor is family support. Ideally, to support the child optimally, the whole family should adopt these changes.
Recommendations for Natural Health:
1. Gluten Elimination Diet: Gluten is a ‘pro-inflammatory’ food which means that when ingested, it contributes to more inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the root of every illness in our body, including challenges in learning and behavior. By eliminating gluten from our diet, we can support greater health and recovery. For more information on gluten elimination, visit: http://www.gluten.net.
2. Avoid refined sugars: Diabetes is on the rise today as documented by many researchers. To avoid this type of illness in adulthood, changes need to be made early on.
3. Avoid peanuts: Consider the recent rise in peanut allergies. Peanuts are allergenic to many people. What is less recognized is how peanuts can affect those that don’t present with severe anaphylactic symptoms. Eliminating peanuts from our diet may lead to benefits in skin health, learning and behavior, breathing, and more.
4. Avoid synthetics additives in our foods: Read labels!
5. Avoid toxic chemical exposure: Always consider how you can reduce toxins in your environment and in your home.
Integrative Manual Therapy
In addition to implementing natural strategies in our home and through our diet, a great way to improve health in our children and ourselves is with bodywork. Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) is a hands-on treatment that incorporates all the systems of the body. IMT practitioners (often Physical Therapists, Massage Therapists, and Chiropractors) use their hands to search for underlying causes to pain and illness. IMT is a gentle approach that can be very relaxing for children and adults. In addition to changes in pain and movement, IMT can lead to improvements in behavior, learning, and attention.
When making the choice to change your home to a natural home, the question of cost is always a consideration. But what is often forgotten is the cost of health. The Centers for Disease Control report that diabetes is one of the leading chronic illnesses in children today. There is an obvious rise in children’s learning and behavioral disorders—just witness today’s rise in autism spectrum disorder. The only way to make ‘sustainable’ changes in our health today is to be proactive in our choices. There is so much that is out of our control—the escalation of global warming, the rising cost of healthcare and education, and ultimately, other people’s choices. But when it comes to our own family, we can support each other in making better choices that will lead to greater health. For more information about natural living and natural parenting, visit: http://naturallivingfamily.com/.