Holistic Health for Children
Over the years I have used a variety of holistic approaches to heal myself and reduce stress. I now have child and prefer to use these same approaches over medications whenever possible. However, I don’t want to jeopardize his health. What healing approaches do you recommend as “child-friendly?”
Dear Mystic Mom,
As parents, we rightly hesitate before trying out novel healthcare approaches on our children. Fortunately, there are many paths to healing that gentle enough for children, who can sometimes respond very quickly and positively to holistic care. Sometimes the right choice will be conventional care, and other times it will be more alternative choices. I recommend two books that take this kind of pragmatic approach: Healthy Child, Whole Child, by Stuart Ditchek, MD and Russell Greenfield, MD; and The Holistic Pediatrician by Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, who founder the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education at Research at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Here are my suggestions on how to use holistic healthcare to help your kids in a compassionate, responsible manner:
Find a pediatrician who is willing to listen and work with you.
Probably the most important step you can take it to find a pediatrician who is open to holistic approaches to healing. A good “holistic” pediatrician does not necessarily know a thing about herbs, or reiki, or homeopathy. She or he is one who is, above all, competent in pediatric medicine, yet understands that your child’s health encompasses body, mind and spirit. A holistic pediatrician should be open to your trying out gentle holistic remedies on your child, and aware of what other parents have done and their results, yet be clear to you about both when conventional medical care might be the right and responsible choice to make, and when you are in grey area that may require your careful monitoring and deliberation. A good question to ask them would be “Do you work with parents who use herbal remedies to help their children when they have minor illnesses?” In their answer, look for an open mind and a spirit of collaboration.
Consider herbal medicine, supplements, and homeopathy
Around the world, herbal medicine is commonly used to help children recover from illness and stay well. In France, homeopathic remedies are often prescribed by doctors as a gentler approach for fighting common child illnesses such as respiratory infections. As a responsible parent, you want to be extra sure of their safety and of the appropriate dosage. For the latest scientific evidence on the effectiveness of these remedies and any potential contraindications, I recommend visiting the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section of the Intellihealth website at www.intellihealth.com. Vetted by Harvard Medical School and Boston-based NaturalStandard.com, the site provides clear and concise information on many popular natural remedies and their appropriate dosage. In this way, you can avoid having to purchase higher-priced natural remedies targeted directly at kids (and their worried parents!). For more specialized herbal knowledge from herbalists themselves, I recommend contacting members of the American Herbalists Guild at www.AmericanHerbalistsGuild.com, or of the Northeast Herbal Association at www.northeastherbal.org.
How many of us would be in better shape today if we were introduced to yoga at an early age? Well, the opportunities for your child to practice yoga have never been greater, particularly in the Bay State. You can even start them off on Itsy Bitsy Yoga®, which, despite its cutesy name, is worth checking out. Founded by local yoga instructor Helen Garabedian, Itsy Bitsy Yoga® involves poses and techniques for babies from 3 weeks to two years old that are said to enhance child development and parent-child bonds. To find a qualified instructor near you or to learn from Helen herself, visit www.itsybitsyyoga.com. For older children, I recommend contacting your local YMCA or yoga studio for listings of Family Yoga, and Yoga for Children/Teens classes.
Brain Gym® is a child-friendly program of physical movements that is said to enhance learning and performance in all areas. It includes a range of exercises that are said to help concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical coordination and other skills. Brain Gym® has emerged from the field of educational kinesiology, the study of movement to enhance learning. For parents with children who are having learning difficulties, this might be a good “outside the box” approach to try. To learn more, or to find a qualified Brain Gym® class or teacher in the Boston area, visit www.BrainGym.org.
Be the teacher: live the holistic lifestyle
Our children are constantly watching us. Even if they don’t listen to what we say, they are certainly noticing what we do. If they grow up in a household where healthy eating, sleeping, stress reduction, exercise and a balanced lifestyle are valued, they will not only be healthier under our care but may hopefully carry on those good habits throughout their lives. This is a great gift we can offer them and ourselves.
What a great gift you can give to your child to show them that healing is not just about going to the doctor, it’s part of life. That healing can happen anywhere, and that everyone—including them—are healers. There is no better way encourage this empowering attitude in your children than by making your self-healing a priority and by even learning basic healing approaches yourself, such as reiki, massage, herbal remedies, and first aid. Cultivate your child’s natural empathy and curiosity by teaching them what you know about how to help others in these ways. If we can teach our next generation to see healing in this way, we will be doing ourselves a great favor.
First published in Boston Natural Awakenings magazine's August 2005 "Ask Karlo" column.
Whole Health Solutions can connect you to the top herbalists, homeopaths, yoga instructors and Brain Gym® teachers in your region who specialize in working with infants and children. Click here for details.