These are 3 of the most helpful books I have found to support parents to create a home life that nurtures their children and themselves. All three take into account the consciousness of young children and provide practical support in creating a joyful, healthy foundation for life. I chose the books parents have consistently thanked me years later for and have provided my clinical and personal insights on the impact of the key concepts.
1. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
This book has more dog-eared pages than any book I’ve ever owned. It is an enlightening and empowering read. The cover that has two sets of bare feet (one big, one little) in mid-air says it all. “Simplifying isn’t so much about taking things away as it is about creating space for real connection and relationship”.
In parenting, sometimes for the love of our children(!), we find ourselves unintentionally in the pace of more, better, faster and the practice of simplifying is a lifesaver. Too much choice, too much stuff, too much scheduled.
Even parents whose intention is to live a simpler life find it hard to make that happen as fears of their child missing out if they don’t do, have, get. We want to do right by our kids. We look at the individual activities they are in and see such value for them but when it all gets added up and you throw dinner in there and start to feel overwhelmed and disconnected from your child then what? This book is a great help. It takes into account the unique consciousness of children and lays out the real effect of our ‘too much’ worlds on our families and our health. Kim’s style is lighthearted and entertaining. He makes simplifying manageable by taking you step-by-step through de-cluttering your home and life.
Kim has worked for decades with families and in schools in a counseling capacity and shares how “too much” was often the obstacle to cure and how many “disorders” were actually just overwhelmed children that needed some space and rhythm. The increasing anxiety in children (and parents!) and many sensory disorders can be helped by simplifying and creating environments that are life-giving. This book is foundational in my practice and coaching work with parents.
2. Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer
This is a practical, easy read full of simple natural parenting gems and easy-to-review chapter summary charts. The format is perfect for parents of young children. For parents to whom organization and home life rhythm does not come naturally this is a godsend. It is based on Rudolf Steiner’s work with healthy child development and teaches how to bring the healthy child principles to the day, week, year in a manageable way that nourishes everyone. Thinking drains the etheric energy forces that children draw on in parenting and whatever a parent can do to get the day-to-day /week-to-week on a rhythm rather than thinking about it every day anew, the better for everyone. Sharifa gives you skills to enjoy home life more including simple meal planning, storytelling, water colouring and creating healthy rhythms. The early childhood parenting paradigm she lays out can help bypass the adrenal burnout many parents come up against as rest, routine and rhythm (the core lifestyle measures recommended for adrenal fatigue) are an inherent part of this. Meatless Mondays, Turkey Tuesdays, Fish Fridays. Bring it on! (-: Parents with young children will appreciate the freedom some simple systems and structure bring at this full, yummy time of life.
3. Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior by Susan Perrow
Storytelling, according to Thomas Moore, is “an essential skill of parenting.” To guide your child in life you need to speak his/her language and in the younger years especially, that is the picture language of story. This book is full of excellent stories that you can use as is, adapt for your child/patient or simply get inspiration from. Susan takes you in the initial chapters thru the simple steps to creating a healing story using a tried and true formula.
Storytelling is a lost art of parenting and giving parents a simple resource like this book and encouragement so they can bring it into their home life is deeply healing and refreshing for parent and child alike. Just as breast milk is the perfect food for a newborn, stories are perfect brain and soul food for the growing child – easy to digest and integrate and deeply nourishing. Stories start as lullabies and nursery rhymes and get more complex as the child ages. Stories of the day’s events for 3 years olds, nature stories for 4-5 years olds, fairytales and fables for the older. Home made stories anytime.
Oral storytelling brings presence and play to parenting – you bring yourself totally and completely to the story (pretty tricky to plan the grocery list while telling a story off by heart). Ultimately what children most want from us is our presence and story is a simple yet potent way for silly, soulful connection between parent and child to grow. Story creates a feeling of space. Everything slows down and warms up when you sink into a story. Hearts drop into coherence, mirror neurons fire and parts of the brain are activated that are not in logical thinking. It is an intimate experience and builds unique capacities for life.
Part of why story is so key in childhood has to do with a child’s consciousness which is very different from ours. Children live in the now and in pictures not the abstract world of adult thinking. To reach them where they are at we need to offer them pictures in the form of metaphors and story. Healing stories are powerful ways to give a child resources to get through challenging times/transitions. To give a young child a story before a surgery, the birth of a sibling, going to a new school, during a divorce, to help them get through a hard time is such good medicine.
Even if you are wishing to explain something to a child you will connect with them more effectively with their picture consciousness in mind. In the office I bring in story to deepen my connection with my younger patients – I sometimes give children a gemstone at the end of a visit and I may tell a little made up story about how I found it or perhaps a magic power it has. It doesn’t have to be fancy or long, children crave story and live in their imagination and I find they sure like the occasional adult visitor. Consider the lightness and healing story may bring to your family. Take a breath and just begin, ”Once upon a time …. “
Dr. Monika Herwig ND is a mom of two, writer and workshop leader. She is an advocate for letting kids be kids and finds the work of Rudolf Steiner in the realm of Child Development and Child Consciousness to be a precious gift in the important task of raising healthy, free, happy children. Dr. Herwig has witnessed the power in bringing people together for healing and empowerment and facilitates Calm Mom Mindfulness Courses, and Soulful Mothering Retreats.
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