Category Archives: Natural Child Magazine

Resilience – Why We Need It and How To Help Our Children Develop It

Resilience - What it is and How to Help our Children Develop it

Resilience is our ability to adapt successfully in the face of stress, adversity, and traumatic events. Having it (and building it) leads to good mental health, which allows us to meet our life goals, to live happy and meaningful lives, and to cope with whatever challenges life tosses our way. And I think it is especially important in these strange and dire times.

Developing this trait (or not) begins early in life. And it seems to be something that many children and young people in our society struggle with. Parents often share with me their concern about the stress in their children’s lives, the impact it has on them, and how to help them deal with it. Some tell me that their kids, even very young ones, are on medication for anxiety.

This stress is often caused by pressure from coercive schools that are not designed to nurture learning and that are too focused on early achievement. There are so many other stressors like bullying (by adults and other kids), world events, racial tensions, poverty, and death in the family that can be hard for children to cope with if they don’t have appropriate support. Childhood anxiety can be exacerbated by lack of outdoor exercise, environmental health issues (indoor and outdoor air pollution, toxic food, electromagnetic radiation exposure), doctors who are too quick to prescribe, and even well-meaning parents shielding their kids from life’s adversities.

I have learned from my own life experience as a child and an adult that our job is not to protect our kids from adversity, because we can’t. Our job is to provide them with the tools to overcome it, to benefit from it even. I’ve written many times about the importance of trusting and respecting children, as well as allowing them to take risks, to persevere, and to fail gracefully. Not only does that contribute to their learning, it helps them to develop resiliency.

Child development specialist Jacqueline King-Presant, M.Ed. has written a series of articles for Natural Child Magazine that present some specifics about how to support the development of children’s emotional intelligence and natural resilience. She writes: “A child who feels trusted in their independence, risk taking, and problem solving abilities is a child who has been empowered to manage life’s difficulties with resilience – an important mindset that is decreasing in children and young adults today.”

Here are links to the articles. I hope you will find them helpful.



Manipulation of Information About Health and Food

Manipulation of Information About Vaccines and Other Health and Food IssuesPeople have been talking about measles and vaccines. But, for me, the issue is broader than measles and vaccinations; it is an example of the manipulation of information about health and food for corporate profit. And that affects our ability to make informed decisions and give informed consent regarding what happens to our bodies and those of our children.

The debate about measles and vaccinations on social networks has been ugly for the past few months, ever since some people got measles at Disneyland. Anyone who questions the current schedule of vaccinations in North America is said to be “anti-science,” ill-informed, non civic-minded, and even stupid. Some people have been suggesting that parents who don’t vaccinate their children should be jailed or sued. A medical ethicist thinks that all doctors who have concerns about vaccines should lose their licenses. War has broken out between those who are being characterized as “anti-vaxxers” and those who think they have righteousness on their side and like to reinforce it with insults. The rest of us have been keeping our heads down.

When fear kicks in, truth, complexity, and rationality get lost in such “discussions,” so I haven’t become involved. But the truth is that the issue is not black and white. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is not a simple decision, and it is a highly personal one. It is increasingly being complicated by a huge amount of obfuscation of the facts. Although the media, the medical establishment, and the for-profit companies that manufacture these highly lucrative products (and must legally maximize shareholder value rather than our health) would like us to think that vaccines are unquestionably safe, the science is not that solid and it is constantly evolving. At any rate, one of the problems with exposures to drugs, food additives, and environmental pollutants is that they are studied in isolation from everything else we humans are ingesting.

Take, for instance, the stance of Israeli physician Yehuda Shoenfeld, who has spent more than three decades studying the immune system. He has written numerous medical text books on the subject and has been called the “Godfather of Autoimmunology” – the study of the immune system turned on itself in a wide array of diseases from type 1 diabetes to ulcerative colitis, lupus (about which I have personal knowledge, unfortunately), and MS. Shoenfeld is pointing to vaccines as a significant contributor to the growing global epidemic of autoimmune diseases, likely due to the adjuvants they contain. We published an article twenty years ago in Natural Life Magazine by a naturopath who suggested that childhood vaccines may be leading to a general trend of deteriorating health and increased autoimmune diseases.

Further complicating things are the corporate whistleblowers, the doctors charged with fraud, allegations of data manipulation and suppression of research papers…. Can you begin to see the web woven of money that entangles the truth, as I’ve described many times in the past in Natural Life Magazine? All of this makes it hard to know what the facts really are, although it certainly should lead one to be suspicious.

The vaccination kerfuffle is just a current example of corporate influence on our health – an influence by so-called Big Pharma that makes it very difficult to make decisions. For instance, millions of people take the cholesterol lowering statins and blood pressure drugs that research increasingly indicates may do nothing to reduce mortality but can harm our health in many other ways. In fact, in a situation eerily similar to the manufactured confusion and apparent statistical deception regarding vaccine safety, a new study has suggested there has been a cover-up of over three hundred adverse health effects of statins documented in the biomedical literature.

Then there is the breathless promotion of wearable technology devices – from wristwatches to technology-embedded clothing. The financial opportunity appears enormous – a tenfold market increase to fifty billion dollars in three to five years, by some projections. But aside from the usefulness or stylishness (or lack thereof) of this stuff, is it safe? That’s not to mention the increasing but oft-denied evidence of serious health effects of ubiquitous wi-fi, especially for children. And then there’s the fragrance industry, processed food, GMOs, etc., etc…all things we’re told won’t harm us and may even make our lives better…if we buy them.

Please approach those things, and other issues like vaccination, with an open mind, knowing that we do not necessarily have all the information we need to make good decisions, and in many cases neither do our physicians. For instance, most so-called “anti-vaxxers” are not anti-science; they just want to know exactly what the science says, not what industry wants it to say – before they provide their consent. In the previously mentioned article about vaccinations in Natural Life Magazine, the author wrote, “Informed consent means the parent/guardian is given time to read, understand, and research the information about the risks and dangers of immunizations” – and to weigh that against the benefits. That is true of any sort of medical intervention that is being suggested.

So do your research as best you can, and make your own decisions about what you buy and eat, and what medical procedures you subject yourself and your family to. We need to think hard and long before we accept what corporations and even governments say about the safety of products and procedures out there in the marketplace – in spite of attempts to influence our decisions, even shame us for them, use fear to manipulate us, or legislate our compliance. Keep in mind that we do have choices.

Avoiding Sleep Training as a Precursor to Unschooling

Sleep TrainingCheck out any online book store and you’ll see over a hundred titles about how to “sleep train” your baby. These books are about getting kids to sleep at times that suit the adults in their lives, not because babies that weren’t trained would stay awake 24/7! That thinking/wishing which leads to sleep training is also where our need to control our children’s learning begins, and where understanding unschooling can begin.

As an article about sleep in our Natural Child Magazine explains, how we sleep depends on a wide variety of factors related to our environment, family, genetic make-up, moods, general health, and even hormonal changes. And, as the same author wrote in another article, “Your baby sleeps and wakes in a certain way because that is how babies are.” Likewise, children learn in certain ways because that’s how they are. When we fight their natural instincts and curiosity (in the same way we try to manipulate their sleep needs via sleep training), we get in the way of what we want to happen, and ultimately can cause them harm.

I remember coming to that realization a few weeks into the life of my first daughter in 1972, although I had already begun to form some strong opinions about children’s need for autonomy in learning. Accepting that how she would sleep on her own schedule wasn’t much different than how she would learn made life for both of us so much more pleasant. (Sure, I wasn’t sleeping any more than before, but I also wasn’t fighting or trying to control her, and that freed up my energy and my soul just to love her in each moment…and for better sleep when I did manage to get some).

That decision not to try and control things that weren’t mine to control was one of the foundations on which my philosophy of life learning/natural family life/radical unschooling/autonomous living (however you want to label it) was built. It led to me learning to recognize my daughters’ other patterns, personalities, and passions. And, following their leads, I was able to provide support, companionship, and much more – always respecting their needs and finding ways to mesh theirs with mine.

So here’s where understanding unschooling can begin. Let your babies sleep and stay awake as they are wont to do, without fighting them. Be alert to supporting their needs, but trust that they’re doing what works best for them and aren’t trying to manipulate you (which infants aren’t able to do). And, as they grow, allow them the freedom to pursue their curiosity, their interests, and their passions. Respect that, with your support, they can learn to recognize their own needs, and trust that they’ll learn how to fulfill them. They’ll grow up to be healthy, happy, and well-educated. And I’m betting that you all will be able to sleep well at night.