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  • Is My Kid Normal?

    Is My Kid Normal?

    “Is my kid normal?”

    This is a common concern for parents whether they readily admit it or not. Is my child good enough? Is he smart enough? Is he on par with his peers? What do others think of him? What do other parents think of me? There is so much blame, shame and judgment that is dispensed both internally and externally by parents that it sometimes makes the raising of children a dangerous minefield of insecurity and preoccupation with others’ expectations. We all want to fit in and also have our children fit in. The problem is though, how do we define what is normal?

    I spoke to a mom’s group recently, sharing with them the value of Chinese Medical pediatrics. Along with educating them in the use of acupressure protocols for a litany of common pediatric complaints such as teething pain, constipation, cough and eye infections, I also introduced them to the idea of Five Element typing. In Chinese Medicine all phenomena in the universe are classified according to the elemental energies of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. This system is used to assist in the understanding of the interaction, promotion and regulation of the bodily energies,  and can also be a tool to decipher a person’s constitutional tendencies in regards to both their physical health and their temperament. The Five Element system is something that I often employ in my work with children to better understand their personalities and how it influences their behavior, motivations and health challenges. It allows me to interact with and treat them in a way that honors their uniqueness and to also educate their parents in how to improve their relationship with their children. I’ve worked with Wood Children, Fire Children, Earth Children, Metal Children and Water Children and they are all beautiful in their own individual and different ways.

    So at the end of this talk that I had given, after most of the group had gone home, and I was packing up my things a new mom approached me. She was anxious and in need of advice about her young son, not yet two years old. She wanted to know if she was being overly permissive with her exploratory toddler and whether she needed to tell him no more often. As if to prove her point he ran out of the room and into the hallway to pursue a playmate that was leaving. After safely retrieving her son she confessed her fear that she was failing her son by not better controlling his behavior. It was evident from the boy’s energy that he was a Fire type,  a high-energy child with a great need for stimulation and activity, but who also had little recognition of boundaries or danger. This mom was tired from her continued responsibility of keeping him safe and alive. She was also feeling judged by family members who thought that her son should be sitting in quiet attention at his weekly music class rather than running around with exuberant expression. Her unspoken fear was whether her son was normal.

    Imagine her relief when I told her that her son was a perfectly normal Fire Child. Fire Children do not sit. Fire Children run. Fire Children explore with abandon. Fire Children have no fear. They are the performers and class clowns of the world. They are happy children who laugh loud, but can also have equally explosive reactions when their explorations are thwarted by their caregivers. Their natural expression can be quite challenging to a parent who wants them to “be seen and not heard.”  Fire Children demand to be seen and to have their presence validated at every turn. They are high needs children. They are not bad kids. They are the perfect expression of Fire.

    I counseled this mom to be understanding of her son’s Fire nature and to allow for its normal expression. I explained that at the age of two that it was not realistic to expect him to sit at a music class and maybe not at the age of three or four either. I told her that his energies might be best assisted by the allowance of his moving around during activities. Fire children can often focus best while in motion. I also told her that Fire Children need to be taught about appropriate boundaries in a manner different than children of other elemental types. The physical nature of Fire Children require that parents act out their expectations with both voice and body. A Fire Child needs to have all their senses stimulated to be brought into a state of attention. Yelling at a Fire Child to “stop that!” will not work. They need to be touched, spoken to  and have the appropriate behavior modeled for them. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Yes, it is, but it is what these little Fire Children require. For them life is a rehearsal and their parents are like their directors who give them creative license, but with the proper blocking.

    Then from my experience as a pediatric acupuncturist, I gave her some concrete acupressure protocols to help to better balance the Fire energies of her son, by tempering them and allowing them to dissipate when things (like his temper) got out of hand.  She left clearly relieved that her son was normal and that she didn’t need to change his nature, but rather support it with both understanding and love.

    It is exchanges like this that reinforce my deep and abiding respect for the wisdom of Chinese Medicine. It is through the recognition of our differences and the realization that we all express our individual natures in a way that flows from the current of our inner being that permit us to love and accept everyone as their own unique selves. We are all Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water types and we are all normal. We are all ok.

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