This perspective on the body - as full of healing power even when it is diseased or damaged - is the truth I want my children to believe in wholeheartedly. For a three year-old with a scraped knee, witnessing the wound transform over the course of a few days from bloody and oozing, to scabbed and dry, to fresh new skin truly is a miracle. An attitude of faith in one’s body to balance itself and thrive, along with learned self-care skills to encourage wellness miracles, sows seeds of incredible power in young minds. Feeling like we can be on the same team as our body's observable healing potential turns a child from a simple victim of slippery gravel and gravity into a superhero who gets back up, confident in their body’s abilities and equipped with a toolkit to create health marvels. Imagine how this empowered attitude toward health challenges - whether it is a fever or a bruise - will ripple resilience and strength throughout other spheres of their lives.
Messages to Cultivate Health Confidence
The words we use with our kids can jumpstart this kind of thinking in them. Whenever my kids come show me a scraped knee (which is pretty much daily!) or have a cough, I respond with a hug and something like, “Aww, that doesn’t sound fun. The good news is your body is an incredible healing machine! Now what can we do to help it?”
This message reminds my kids that their body is working all day every day towards health, and is already starting to do its job. My goal is to strike a balance between acknowledging their pain and suffering with soothing words and lots of cuddles, while keeping them optimistic and hopeful that wellbeing is just around the corner. It also ropes them in as important helpers of their body’s healing magic.
During a cold or cough, if we offer every spoon of honey with black pepper, mouthful of tulsi leaves, sip of hot water, or inhalation of steam infused with turmeric and eucalyptus oil as an opportunity for the child to be a hero of their own healing using nature’s gifts, they will be more open to doing these practices. When we teach them to avoid cold and gloopy foods like curd because they increase the cold and gloopy things in us like boogers and sticky stuff in our lungs, we are equipping them with life wisdom that becomes an ingrained strategy for health lifelong. Children want the world to make sense and they want to understand the rules that govern their rapidly expanding fields of awareness. Framing how their choices can be based on nature’s properties and rules of cause and effect gives them comfort and confidence .
In Practice: A Self Care Jar
When not feeling well, it can sometimes seem tiresome for kids (and us!) to be consistent in applying our home remedies to support the body’s natural immunity. To turn this into a game, you can make a Self-Care Jar.
- Write on slips of paper all of the self-care practices or home remedies the child should ideally do by the end of the day for whatever is ailing them.
- Put these slips in a jar and every 2 hours or so have them pick a slip of paper and do that thing.
- Let them help prepare the remedy whenever possible (putting the spoon of salt into the gargle water, turning on the hot water kettle and opening the jar for preparing herbal tea, etc.) This puts them in an active role in their self-care and changes the dynamic from the caregiver chasing them to do something 'for their own good' that they don’t want to do, into a game of ‘what little thing can I do to improve my health today?’
- Keep the slips of completed tasks aside so they choose a different practice each time until all the tasks have been completed. You can refill the jar with all the slips for the next day and start over.
If you have experimented with the Self Care Jar practice, or have insights to share on how you bring kids on board as helpers in their own health, please share in the comments.
For more stories on her Ayurvedic childhood and practical ways to bring Ayurveda into your life, see Acharya Shunya's deeply inspiring book, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom.