In 2001 I opened The Children’s Ear Clinic in Western Australia and spent the next seven years seeing primarily children under six. What I saw a lot of obviously were kids with ear problems, asthma, some allergies and very occasionally anxiety. At that time, with a small child in childcare myself, I can safely say I never saw hand, foot and mouth, molluscum contagiosum or slap cheek and there was no rampant gastro.
Within a few years of this I started to see the odd child with symptoms we would now consider as being on the autism spectrum. More allergies began creeping in (including a jump in nut allergy, and sesame allergy appearing), molluscum became a frequent presentation and I identified many of the factors that were becoming an issue in terms of children’s health. Asthma plans became a thing and schools struggled to deal with the number of children with high level allergies and they had to work out how to manage lunch boxes and birthday cakes.
Over the past 10 years there has been an explosion in children’s health issues. Some might say that’s because we have better diagnostic techniques but it is very clear that the health of our children has taken a major dive.
The new normal is at least a cold a month with a constant runny nose otherwise, regular gastro, hand, foot and mouth frequently doing the rounds at child care, and worms and/or head lice as a chronic issue for many. And that’s the stuff I’d say is minor!
Of course we are seeing a large number of children with symptoms definitely considered to be on the spectrum and anxiety exploding across all ages. Auto immune conditions are exploding and everyday I’m faced with a condition I’ve never heard of that is actually a medical way of saying “we don’t know what this is but we’ve given it a name now”!
On the physical level parasites and gut health are a big focus for many families because it’s something they can understand and work on with diet and supplements. Anything from ear infections, allergies and constipation to asthma, bedwetting and anxiety, and of course ASD, may be managed this way.
It would also appear that the school psychs and counsellors are working over-time, judging by the frequency with which I now suggest children might benefit from some strategies for coping with anxiety and bullying issues and how difficult it is to access these services quickly.
But this post is not to talk about why this has become the norm, because I’m sure we all have our theories. What I want to talk about here is a bit of a progression from my previous post on “Our Gut Health is in the Soil” and I do have to warn you that some of what I cover in my ponderings may be a little “new age” because in many ways we can perhaps only get a handle on what is happening by going there!
It is time to wake up!
The times we are in are a time of awakening, not necessarily in a spiritual way although for many that is the case, but actually a time of waking up to what we are doing to the planet, the people and our children. We need to be looking for better ways of doing a lot of things in our world, changing our practices, moving away from materialism and greed, moving back to community, nurturing each other and being in nature.
I firmly believe we are all here at this time for a reason, we chose to be here before we even arrived and that may be because we are going to make a difference in our family, in our community or even in the world, or maybe we just wanted to experience these times.
Because these are definitely unique times. There is no method or road map for managing any of this and really we shouldn’t need one because actually a lot of this is common sense. A big element of the 21st century to date has been following other people, on facebook, on their websites and through their blogs. We are often held breathless by the amazing (and often quite shallow or stolen) insights they bring to us each morning over our coffee.
We’ve been following these “gurus” devotedly, hanging on their every word and idea, until someone else we come across has another great idea and we blindly follow, quoting these gurus (and often their “science”) as our experts, whether it to be on a spiritual path or a gut health path. Clever marketing is a big part of this century. What we see is not what we get!
Sheldon Kopp, a psychotherapist and author, who didn’t quite make it into the 21st century (he died in 1999) wrote a book entitled If you meet the Buddah on the road, kill him! He said “The most important things that each man must learn no one can teach him. Once he accepts this disappointment, he will be able to stop depending on the therapist, the guru who turns out to be just another struggling human being.” Again, this bears out the comment above that what we see is not what we get. And sadly in a lot of cases we’ve turned our gurus, teachers, influencers even Wikipedia into our therapist, the only person we listen to, where we draw our information and inspiration, never questioning what is their source.
We are too caught up in wanting to be told what to do, in asking what to do, in looking for the guru or the expert, but my feeling has always been (a) we have the inner wisdom to know what is right or wrong or (b) the right person will turn up exactly as and when we need them.
It sounds very cliched but we do need to look to ourselves, to look inside for the final word on what choice we make. If you’re here on the planet now, I firmly believe you have all you need within to get through this life. Certainly you’ll need a little support but you need to look behind the glitz and glamour and the masks to find the truth and the authenticity and for us all to build a better future.
Science and research are our ‘gods’, but according to some of the highest authorities, we can’t even rely on the peer reviewed papers they rely on as free from bias or telling us the whole truth. The internet is full of articles which have been copied from other websites (frequently plagiarised and without acknowledgement of the original writer). Everyone is now an expert based on theory but often not practice and if product reviews are anything to go by, what we are reading is a review of how quickly the product was shipped or unpacked, rather than how well it worked in many cases. That is obviously a slightly cynical summary, but somehow it fits our world view.
This is the world are children are living in. A world of uncertainty, filled with fear and sensationalism, of “buy it now”, “ours is the best and will change your life”, helicopter parenting, children with life threatening health conditions and everyone constantly vying for the upper hand, the best results and the need to aim higher than everyone else.
Children are no longer allowed to just be – and isn’t that what we are so often told in our mindfulness meditations and by our health coaches – but that doesn’t always extend to our kids. Certainly parents these days have a better idea of parenting than generations past, but in a way it’s like KMart hacks, always looking to achieve the best outer appearance in the easiest and cheapest way, perhaps at the expense of inner peace or beauty!
I hope you’ll excuse my rather cliched images, but coming from a time before colour tv (yup that ages me!), let alone computers, mobile phones and sat nav – and honestly I really love all this tech and fully embrace it – I can remember a childhood where my biggest concern was which icy pole to pick at the corner shop! We had plenty of time to lie on the grass and look at the sky, to make furniture from match boxes for our dolls houses, build cubby houses, and the most tech toy we had were Lego and Barbies who could grow their hair!
The world population has exploded meaning everyone feels they need to make their mark. In 1937 the population according to naturalist and conservationist David Attenborough (My Life on Earth) was 2.3 billion. In 2020 it is heading past 7.8 billion!
So what has been happening over the past 60 years is that every man has been out for himself, to make a buck, to make his mark, and little attention has been paid to what expense that has taken on the earth and on the people. Our children are coming into this world of greed, of every man for himself, to a planet that has been raped and abused, which is sick and in many cases dying and they are asking who did this and why are we the ones who have to fix it!
As I said before, if we want to look at this from a more spiritual perspective, everyone who is here now – be they young like your kids or older like me and my parents – are here for a reason. We all have a purpose and it will be different for everyone, but I do think that a big part of the future is allowing and supporting our children to have the space to play and to live without fear and academic/future expectations until they are at least beyond their first seven years. Of allowing them to feel less pressure and more connection with nature.
So maybe we should look at it differently
Maybe we should consider what traits we commonly see in these children?
We see things like a disconnection from other people, children who aren’t able to function in school without an aid or assistant, children who can’t even go to school because of anxiety and children who are super sensitive to so many things they are on limited diets, are limited in what they can wear, where they can live and where they can go.
We also see children who are hypersensitive emotionally (“highly sensitive person” is a term now used commonly), who are empathic to the point where, again, they can’t go to school, children who have super-skills at maths or music or science, even if they can’t function in what we call our “normal” world. But even in children with severe levels of autism parents always talk of these children as having a unique talent or perhaps a special gift to bring joy, even if they are unreachable in other ways.
And what does this tell us?
Perhaps this tells us that things are changing even while we are slow to accept the change. Is this the generation who is showing us how wrong and unhealthy our world is for them? Are they the children who are going to make us make the changes for them and then who are going to live that change and help us all adapt to the new times and the new energy that is to come.
Traditional manufacturers of, for instance, things like breakfast cereal and soft drinks must be made up of people who have an idea that will make a profit and the drive to make it by any means. Often ingredient quality, just as an example, does not reflect current trends in health or allergy levels. Certainly in Australia and the USA this still seems to be the case, but in Europe things are a lot different and even 25 years ago when I was studying and living in the UK, the move to improve labelling, to remove the nasties from food and to improve levels of production and animal welfare was front and centre of the food industry. Our world is driven by marketing and illusion. How much of what we see, listen to, buy and live with is actually genuine?
What about school?
Schooling is another good example where life can become a bit of a horror story for many children. I am seeing more and more children who don’t want to go to school, who suffer huge anxiety and separation, who are bullied or who have problems behaving or “sitting on the mat”. I’ve noticed more and more Steiner schools, small community schools and bush kinders popping up. Sometimes this is because the parent wants a better, more organic experience for their children, but very often it’s because the experience of the child in a standard school is damaging and insensitive.
School is so often pushing children towards academic or athletic pursuits, but what about the children who are musical, artistic, theatrical or who want to learn to meditate or work with animals? Often there is a sprinkling of this through curriculums, but a big problem is the push towards sitting at computers in the classroom, just as many children also sit at screens when they get home. I spoke to one boy recently who told me they didn’t even do sport at his high school!!
School is often about complying, learning by rote, punishment, reward, achievement, numbers. There is less play, less time in nature and more time sitting still. Certainly there are schools which have changed things as they observe the changing needs of children but they are all tied down by the national curriculum and competencies representing a child and their ability levels.
The drive for academic excellence is now starting in the very first years of life, with childcares offering early learning programmes for babies and while some would say it is based in play, the focus is on learning and filling a little one’s brain and competing with others at this tender age.
You may not be familiar with Rudolph Steiner‘s Cycles of Life. Steiner was an Austrian scientist, philosopher and artist who lived from 1861-1925. His interests were not only in education, but also in a wide range of fields such as medicine, agriculture, nutrition, social renewal, the environment. He is also seen as a social reformer and like Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, his ideas were well ahead of his time. Anthroposophical medicine, what I would refer to as a branch of homeopathy, appeared during this time as well.
Steiner, like Hahnemann, was a great thinker and observer of life and cycles and he laid down his idea of the cycles we go through as we age and what each age and stage relates to. Children who attend Steiner schools generally spend the early years learning through play – a beautiful, organic, nurturing time for them – rather than learning to read or write. Steiner observed that a good foundation in these very early years helped a child thrive and survive in the next cycle from 7 to 14, when they learn how to be in the world.
So the age of zero to seven years is about our birth and becoming an independent individual. Tom Monte (www.tommonte.com) writes so beautifully that I’m just going to share some of what he writes about this stage:
We are never more dependent in life than we are at birth and during the early years of our lives. Yet, we naturally move away from our mothers toward a growing sense of our own individuality and autonomy. This is the lesson of the first stage of life – the experience of utter dependence on our mothers for life, followed by a natural movement away from her toward a growing sense of our own individuality and power.
So for children who follow the Steiner path those first seven years are gentle, they are about being with the mother and learning about themselves and how to socialise with other children, how to be part of the community and how to interact. And while some of the little children who go off to the beautiful experience that is a Steiner-based playgroup may have anxiety, the process of integrating them and making them comfortable and independent is handled differently and more sensitively.
Over the years I’ve had more than a few mothers weeping about their child’s terrible experience at school. Some have been pulled out and gone to a different school, but home schooling has been perfect for some of them. My observation of children who have home schooled or even “unschooled” is that they are well-rounded, confident, able children, who make the transition from home schooling straight to college, TAFE or university without batting an eyelid! They find their niche, they work out how they are meant to perform, how to achieve what they want and they do it with grace!
And of course many of these children have come from a background where they’ve used conventional medicine only as a last resort, they’ve been fed nutritious, often home-grown food or organically sourced produce, which has been prepared with time and love, rather than a few packets from the supermarket thrown into a plastic lunch box.
If I’m giving you the guilts then I apologise in part, but actually all of this rambling and changing subjects is what all of this time is about. It’s about the shocks that make us wake up to what is happening. It’s having a child and finding out how “science” expects you to raise them, what the “education system” says you have to do with them at school and at home, how much homework there is even in kinder! And our society says they must do these afterschool activities, have this plastic toy or that electronic device, watch this TV show and go to any number of birthday parties which are laden with things many children shouldn’t be eating and can’t cope with.
Different is now becoming the norm
Different is now becoming the norm and it’s not unusual for a child to have an allergy to anything and everything. I hear of quite a few children who take their own food to another child’s birthday party because the mum knows they won’t be able to eat what’s there and little children who know what they can and can’t eat.
I also know of grandparents and family members who think the parent is crazy, that they are not feeding the child properly and who take it upon themselves to give the child “treats” when they are in their care, despite being told by parents it’s a no-go because of the child’s health issues.
So respect for each other also comes into this story. Respecting that we are all different, that our needs are different and the way our child socialises and learns is different, and somehow our children are showing us this.
They are not adapting into what we have created for them, they are adapting into what they need to survive!
Maybe if we think about this a bit more we can see that our children are not adapting into what we have created for them, they are adapting into what they need to survive and we need to recognise this and adapt accordingly. We need to make the changes that nurture them, that they are crying out for. They may not have the words, but if we step back and look at what is happening, we can see the changes they want and need.
They are not the same as previous generations. Maybe all these unusual genetic anomalies we are seeing so often are part of their systems adapting to how the world is now and how it may well continue. We should see this as becoming the new normal and we should envision a world that is more complementary to their needs and their challenges, not continue to try to force them into our crumbling structures.
And personally I see that the immediate future should be about authenticity, honesty, ethics and a big dollop of nurture. Of making choices that show we care about how our food is grown, where we invest our money, what products we use in our home for cleaning and for our renovations and how we shop, repurpose and recycle. Our children are watching us! And again if we want to look at this from the spiritual path, they’ve all been here before and they are no doubt on some level reeling from the shock of seeing where we are at now!
Where does homeopathy come in?
Homeopaths and supporters of this wonderful amazing modality have been saying for decades that homeopathy is the medicine of the future. Obviously not alone but certainly because we treat the person and not the disease primarily and therefore, like our children, our modality adapts to manage what we see in clinic. While things change in medicine, homeopathy has a strong foundation and a long and successful history. Isn’t that why things are often suppressed and hidden by the powers that be?!
So while we are seeing a surge in challenging and complex cases, a lot more vaccination damage, people with environmental sensitivities, a rush of anxiety cases in children, we have a tool box of – as I last heard – somewhere around 8000 remedies! That’s quite a selection of tools when we suddenly get a patient with some unknown and dread disease and it gives us comfort and confidence to be able to offer support to immune systems which are crashing and collapsing around us.
We’re almost there …
If you’re got this far then you’re doing well!
Where I was going right at the beginning of this post is a little bit more along the lines of the gut health post; that we do need to change how we live because actually I think these children are showing us the way and are adapting as they go!
So here I would say put yourself in the position of wanting to wake up and doing it, make changes for the sake of your children, grandchildren and the future of their health and their planet. It can be in small ways; saving your soft plastics and taking them to Woolies or Coles instead of throwing them in the bin, regifting items you don’t want or can’t use rather than buying something new and blingy for birthdays or Christmas. Looking for sustainable gifts or making something yourself, saying no to all that plastic.
Or it can be in big ways by choosing a Steiner School over mainstream, homeschooling, moving to the country and growing your own, getting off the grid, buying a hybrid car. All and any of these things are valid and I’ve no doubt that all over Australia there are community gardens, community groups, green groups where you can learn to grown your own and be in nature, even if you are in a city with limited options.
Our future, created by these amazing young people who have been leaping into our lives over the last 20 or 30 years, is going to be different and I can already see they are making the changes they want, regardless of our outdated views on life trying to tie them down. And maybe that’s what all this is about. If we don’t listen to them with our ears, then we must learn to listen with our hearts and make the changes they need now.
Let’s get out of our heads, listen with our hearts and fight for their future!