In part one of this article, which appeared in last month’s issue of Natural Medicine, Dr Raoul Goldberg led us through the physical/spiritual primary developmental stages of the child, from conception, to the womb, to the third year, where the child expresses himself as ‘I’, thereby acknowledging his independence for the very first time: a golden moment indeed. In this, the second part of ‘Protecting the heavenly years of childhood’, we learn how to encourage the child to express himself in a wholesome and healthy way, and nurture the development of the nerves and senses.
At the risk of sounding prescriptive, I shall offer some advice towards protecting the young child and thereby enhancing his or her potential.
IN THE MATERNITY HOSPITAL AND AFTER
On the basis of sometimes quite arbitrary criteria, a decision is made for the baby to be born by caesarian section, which may have far-reaching consequences for future life. Let us give every child and mother the opportunity to go through the labour of natural birthing.
Once the child is born he might have to face a variety of maternity hospital ‘safety and convenience procedures’. It is important to remember where the baby has resided for the past nine months, and to minimise any invasive procedures, such as removing the baby from the mother, bright lights, inadvertent cooling, washing off the warm, protective and nourishing vernix, artificial feeds and immunisations or other chemical exposure. The newborn baby should stay close to the mother, sleeping with her for the first six weeks, after which he can be moved to a cradle close to the parents’ bed. The mother should try to breastfeed for at least six months to avoid food sensitivities and long-term digestive problems caused by baby formula feeds.
Modern life situations are often harmful to babies’ sensitive constitutions. Avoid carrying them around in fast-moving vehicles through busy traffic, into sensory-overloaded supermarkets and shopping malls, to large gatherings of people, and to night events. The young child does not thrive on over-stimulation of this kind and it is easy to see how they are thrown out of their restful equilibrium. Frequent air travel and moving home is also deleterious to their health.
IMMUNISATIONS AND ILLNESS
In the first two years of his life, if the parents are not discerning, the young child will receive some 30 foreign protein innoculations, with a wide range of potential side-effects. These vaccinations are aimed at preventing more harmful illnesses but also some childhood infectious conditions that have benefits for optimal development.
Fevers occur most frequently during the first three years. They may be a natural response to inner or outer stress and an important part of the body’s immune and defence system. Or they may occur without an obvious external cause, signalling the dynamic engagement of the child’s higher self in biological processes. Adequate warmth is essential for the child to connect properly with his body and when this is not happening properly, fever will result. The current medical doctrine of suppressing every fever as a matter of course, as well as the administration of many other chemical medicines for trivial ailments, should be avoided as the healing process can be supported with natural medicines and therapies.
The quality of food and drink available today leaves much to be desired. Young children should ideally receive a balanced and life-rich nutrition including unprocessed and organic foods in order to develop healthy biological systems. A good knowledge of the nutritional needs of the child is helpful and to this end an article on ‘Optimal child nutrition’ will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of the Journal.
SENSE PERCEPTIONS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
In the first three years the child lives very strongly in his sense world, absorbing all the impressions that he encounters, both the good and bad. We have all been affected by strong sense impressions in our lives: the sight of a mutilated animal turns our stomach, or some terrifying noise makes us freeze. Most of the time an adult is able to think about the sense impression, deflecting it and protecting the body from its harmful effects. However, the young child’s protective power of thinking has not yet developed and very strong impressions, especially those which are recurrent or persistent, will imprint into the life matrix of the child as a subconscious memory. These may be triggered off in later life by exposure to similar sensory or psycho-emotional associations, causing any number of adverse biological or behaviour reactions such as minor health, personality or developmental problems, or in well-known disorders such as allergies, immune disorders, attention deficit disorders, autism, phobias, panic attacks, and dysfunctional personal relationships.
HOW TO NURTURE THE SENSES
The young child surrenders himself to his surroundings in such complete trust that he will naturally and spontaneously imitate what he perceives. This is how he learns to speak, or how he copies the way his father stands, or takes on the nervous anxious personality of his mother. We therefore need to create an environment that stimulates the senses in a health-giving way:
- Speak clearly to a child
- Avoid over-stimulation of the senses, especially excess audio-visual stimulation, e.g. TV, and computers
- Let the child hear live music more than recorded music
- Let the child come into contact with nature
- Let the child handle natural objects rather than synthetic materials, and make physical contact with the child wherever possible
- Take care that the child is not exposed to the harsh, often damaging impressions of adult emotions
- Provide the child at all times with adequate warmth.
The will of the young child drives him to explore his surroundings with his senses. This is the same will activity that initiates and drives his whole development, that brings him into the typically upright human posture, that guides him to communicate by speech and to mirror his world of perceptions through images of thinking. It is the power behind all creativity and all natural self-healing; it must be nurtured through the child’s movement and creativity:
- Let the child express himself in free movement
- Encourage free play, avoiding toys that limit free movement and free expression
- Encourage fantasy, free imagination and creativity through imaginative games and stories
- Create healthy ego boundaries by giving rein and pulling in as needed.
All biological processes function in a rhythmic way and arrhythmic functioning is unhealthy. It is the same for living processes: when we help the child to live rhythmically, and to establish a pattern of rhythm in his or her life, we are strengthening the life rhythms. At the same time we strengthen the child’s inner feeling life which is intrinsically connected with biological and rhythmic activities.
We can do this in a number of ways:
- Provide healthy routines of eating, sleeping, playing, and interacting with other children and adults
- Provide regular experience of rhythmic activities such as hearing live music and song, storytelling, nursery rhymes and rhythmic games.
The world needs the forces of the young child for its rejuvenation. We participate in this rejuvenation when we connect with the inner life of the young child. We can do this in two ways. When we observe the nature of the young child with the reverence it deserves, it will reveal to us the impulses for true brotherhood, love, peace and goodwill on earth. There is a higher wisdom that guides early childhood – even the wisest may learn from a child. We can also revisit our own inner child. Here we may find the power of the higher self which is the source of our creativity, our knowing, our healing, our joy, fun and laughter, our love and peace of heart. In reclaiming our own inner child we may find true fulfillment in our lives.
The content of this article draws its inspiration from the intuitive and integrative sciences, chief of which are the anthroposophical works of Rudolf Steiner, to which the author is indebted.
Angel photos taken by Eva – PhotOriginal – www.photoriginal.co.za
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- Lievegoed B. Phases of Childhood. Edinburgh: Floris Books, Anthroposophic Press, 1987.
- Steiner R. Multiple references from The Complete Works. Dornach, Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag or London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997.
- Steiner R. The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind. Spring Valley, New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1983.
- Louw DA, et al. Human Development. 2nd ed. Cape Town: Kagiso Publishers, 1998.