How I define Holistic Parenting
I have written about this before, but holistic parenting was very important to me once I knew I was giving birth. Whether it comes to decisions about vaccinations, spiritual expressions, or the type of foods and activities I choose, it affects the present, and the future wellness of my child. There is tremendous growth happening now in the food and drug industry as persons are accessing more education about the danger of certain chemicals and their long term effects. There is also a revolution of sorts occurring with women and feminism, women in the workforce, women and their sexual expression. Women want more out of their lives. They are finding their place in the world and want to deliver their gifts. Juggling parenthood and these gifts can be difficult. Which parts do we give up? Which aspects do we make non-negotiable? How do Dads participate in this?
It starts at Birth
I worked at a hospital when I was pregnant and gave birth and had access to much wonderful advice, and some not so great. I knew I would try to have my daughter naturally, had a birth plan in place, but at the time I didn’t have enough funds for a doula or private midwife. So, I had my daughter in the hospital and nothing went naturally, and the birth plan was not completely followed, to my dismay. But, I made breastfeeding my friend and did this for two wonderful years. It created an amazing little immune system. My daughter only had two fevers between ages birth – six years old and we simply rode those out and once I gave a little homeopathic medicine. Teething seemed like a pretty smooth process, but I know not everyone has that experience. Since I worked in the medical environment I wasn’t aware and hadn’t used the amber teething necklace so popular now. I carried my baby in a carrier almost all of the time. She was also with her Dad alone on weekends when I was a Social Worker. She had contact with a wonderful caretaker, Debbie, throughout her first 3 years.
When my daughter was 2 1/2 her father and I separated and later divorced. I was told by many experts that this shouldn’t affect her as much as an older child might be. My concern was my own childhood and some of the experiences I went through. I didn’t want her to experience any sense of loss or self esteem issues as the result of her adult parents. I had to accept that Life Happens. A spiritual community seemed to make sense at this point. I took myself to a church that a friend had introduced me to a few times before. With my daughter in tow, I attended many events, had a community, and my heart and soul expanded and I began to peel off a lot of layers of shame, guilt, family dysfunction and lack of belief in myself. Job changes, a move, and some financial setbacks also strengthened this spiritual confidence and reliance. I enrolled in holistic health Coaching certification, found some of my passion and gifts in writing and a holistic lifestyle, and headed into a direction of helping women with loving themselves and forgiving themselves.
Children need Direction
Whether you are a married household, a single parent household, a lesbian or gay household, you have the same difficulty with parenting as I might. We have to juggle extremely busy schedules, some of us with a lack of resources, some not, some that have family scattered through the country or maybe even the world, some with lack of community or lack of finances. Whatever your obstacles are, either internal or external, you will have to make a conscious decision about how you want to parent. The most recent big name in Conscious Parenting is Dr. Shefali, who has been on Oprah and written books on the subject. She says:
Our children have bestowed us the privilege of raising their spirits. Let us do so with humility and diligent care for it is in their blossoming that we will find the meaning of our existence.
Children need more than a bunch of activities to expand their human experience on Earth. They are a soul being and have the ability to connect, sense energy, heal, and arrive at great intelligence. The recent term for some of this is “Indigo Child” and these children are described on the website of Nancy Ann Tappe, who developed the concept. In fact, some of you reading could be an Indigo, and have Indigo children. It makes for some interesting conflicts at home and in the community.
Too much Information, not enough Transformation
Today’s children are in school, on average, for 6-8 hours, then it’s off to after school care due to working parents, and for many older students, another three hours and 38 minutes of homework to do. This means children are potentially working for 12 hours a day (if they have the benefit of a well-funded school system, which this school in Brooklyn didn’t after an interesting school board scandal). Meanwhile, the American education system ranks below the top 20 for Math, Reading and Science. We have children in school and activities from morning until night and they are no more educated, intelligent or advanced than their worldwide counterparts. In fact, America has the highest rates of school violence, teenage suicide, teen on teen rape, and prison sentences than any other nation. What’s missing? What else can be done?
The Missing Link
With many education and prevention programs in place within government and large organizations, it would appear that we are attempting to manage the problem with a lot of effort. But, holistic parenting is not about more government or more structure or more rules or restrictions. Some persons feel like, with all of the above mentioned obstacles and realities, that “one more thing I have to do to attempt improvement will lead to impossible expectations.” So, what gets left out? Healthy food, cooking at home, outdoor exercise, community and neighborly activity, spiritual education, and nature. With parents at work until 6-7pm at night, kids doing homework until 9-10pm and televisions and microwaves doing the entertaining and cooking for us, there is a lack of togetherness and intimacy, and these are the main ingredients to what makes a family unique. The grandparents don’t always live down the street, maybe they are in prison or passed or in a retirement community in Florida. Aunts and Uncles are 1,000 miles away, cousins are off to various colleges or wrapped up in teen pregnancy, or building a new invention. The individual path has surpassed importance over the familial or community one. We’ve become less willing to make our neighbor accountable, we distance ourselves from the annoyances and dysfunctions of other, and have become isolated. And, the need for intimacy intensifies. As one psychologist discovered, it starts with individual change.
Being a Role Model has not lost its significance
As a holistic parent, it means I do the work on myself in order to benefit my child. Many marriages end in divorce, almost 60%, but many children can still grow to become self-actualized, intelligent and thriving adults. There is pain in any loss in life. Yet, if parents and families and communities can continue to work together to raise children “like a village” then how much better for our future generations. We also have to choose our role models carefully. Whether it’s a historical character or a modern day mogul, children need to set their sights higher and outside their family units. They need inspiration, even if from books, and to connect to innocent fantasy and access to other worlds and time periods. A passionate teacher, a real-life rock star, movies that make them cry and want to hold hands. We cannot protect too much and yet, we also cannot ignore the dangers that are all too real. It becomes this intuitive balancing act, if you are truly paying attention.
How to Integrate the Holistic Child
As I alluded to earlier, being a Holistic Parent is not about more rules and restrictions, rather a balancing act of paying close attention and surrendering a little control. We don’t want to teach our children that there is a big scary world out there and then expect them to also be confident in navigating their new school or establishing an excitingly developing relationship. We want to prepare them with tools for health, wellness, and spirituality as the stages of physical and emotional growth occur and eventually we let them go off to college, choose marriage, discover they are lesbian or gay and/or got accepted into the Peace Corps. Parenting the holistic child is managing a relationship with my child and the community in a way that serves her mind, body and soul freely. I influence and model and provide her freedom. I choose to surround her in communities that try and do the same. It becomes less about selectivity and isolation and more about inclusivity and mutual recognition.
I may choose holistic parenting styles that do not match yours, but I have to live with myself, my own history, and the lessons of what works for my family, as you do yours. What I do hope is that my writing is helpful to those struggling with various aspects of holistic parenting, personal growth and self love and acceptance. What I realized long ago is that I am not perfect and will make mistakes. And, many of us need to be reminded of that. Yet, we must also look towards the future and be proud of what we are creating, knowing that each decision we make has a consequence and some are better than others. Being “holistic” or “healthy” probably paints a picture in your mind that you have to look like that perfect bodied yoga instructor or cook like a vegan chef or home school your children because no one else can do it any better than you. But, let go of all those visions in your mind of what you think you have to do or be and give yourself a little permission to simply love and let go and accept. Integrate all parts of you – mind, body, and soul – and ask yourself, “What do I want for myself and my family in these areas?” and choose to live that way, the best you can, realizing that you may not always get to choose the outcome, but you can choose the tools towards creating it.