Everywhere you look, things are turning green. Spring is definitely upon us, but the “greening” I am referring to is the growing interest in eco-conscious choices, natural solutions, and organic products. While these trends are significant in the marketplace, they are also apparent in a movement toward parenting and lifestyle choices that focus on promoting awareness of environmental conservation and holistic living.
Many parents today are seeking natural remedies and a holistic lifestyle for themselves and their families in an effort to attain optimal health and to live a greener life. Most of us understand the nature of eco-consciousness and the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. But at the Holistic Moms Network, we are often asked “what is holistic parenting?”
For starters, holistic parenting springs from an awareness of how our choices are interconnected. Like attachment parenting, holistic parenting seeks to build and strengthen connections – connections between parent and child, connections between our lifestyle and our health, and connections between our choices and their impact upon the Earth. It’s about understanding the relationship between mind, body, and spirit and trying to find balance. When you are out of balance emotionally, physically, or spiritually or when your environment is toxic, it is a sign of illness. Making choices that embrace these interconnections and working with nature and our innate knowledge helps us to restore balance. Holistic parenting is also about becoming informed and being cognizant of how different options affect our health and well-being, as well as their impact upon our communities and the world at large. Being conscious of our choices enables us to think on a larger scale and to do what is best for our families both in the short term and the long term.
Although holistic parenting can take many routes, there are some simple things every parent can to do to begin their holistic living journey. Here are six cornerstones that help to define holistic parenting:
• Being Informed. Being informed in our parenting and healthcare choices is a cornerstone of whole living. From childbirth options to nutrition; from education alternatives to discipline, holistic parenting seeks a natural path and understands how these choices impact our lives on physical, spiritual, and emotional levels. Holistic parents often look beyond the surface to assess the risks and benefits of their choices and to understand how each choice will alter their well-being and the environment. Modern technology has enabled parents to access an enormous wealth of information and to become aware of less conventional perspectives. Parents need to become advocates for themselves, their children, and our planet, and to be open to information that resonates with them regardless of whether or not the data confers with “mainstream” perspectives.
• Cultivating Trust. Living holistically starts with a shift in your perspective away from fear and uncertainty and toward trust in yourself, your body, and nature’s healing power. Cultivating this trust is challenging but uncovering it is ultimately a source of empowerment. From childbirth and breastfeeding to natural healing, trusting in the body and its amazing abilities enables us to recognize that nature holds many miracles. This also means trusting in the needs of our children. We all know babies have needs and wants but our society tends to minimize their levels of consciousness and awareness. Many studies have shown that newborns have a surprising awareness and consciousness of their own needs and if we trust in their ability to know what they need, we will parent more successfully.
• Tuning Into Your Mother (or Father) Wisdom. Deep within ourselves lies our inner wisdom and intuition, as well as our spiritual voice. What feels right to us may not be the most traveled path but often will best serve our families. This wisdom guides not only our parenting styles, but also simple choices we make everyday. Many times we may wonder is this really “good” for us, even if it is considered “safe” by the standards of authorities. If your wisdom is questioning, take time to become informed and seek alternatives. Parenting from the heart and trusting in our instincts honors our own wisdom and abilities.
• Going Natural. The preponderance of chemicals in our food, homes, and environment is wreaking havoc on our health. A 2004 article in The Journal of Pediatrics advised pediatricians to discuss the neurological risks of exposing babies to pesticides, whether through foods or environmental exposure on lawns, schools, and playgrounds. In the article, they noted that the blood-brain barrier in babies is easily crossed by chemicals and thus reducing exposure is essential. They also noted that “we are currently able to characterize pediatric risks for only a handful of the approximately 80,000 man-made chemicals that have entered the environment since World War II” and that children are the most vulnerable to potential toxic exposure. We need to look for safe, non-toxic products to care for our homes, and to eliminate artificial ingredients, preservatives, and pesticides from our food for the health of our families, as well as our environment.
• Living Lightly on the Earth. Living holistically means recognizing the interconnectedness of our choices. Treading lightly by supporting industries that nurture the earth (such as organic farming), incorporating green practices into your life (such as recycling), and giving back of yourself through volunteer work are essential components of natural living. As parents, we can educate our children to take simple but important steps to conserve, reuse, and to live simply and thoughtfully for themselves and future generations.
• Finding Support. While all things “green” may be increasingly popular, living a holistic lifestyle continues to be considered “alternative” and often garners criticism and questioning from our own families and friends. Creating and interacting with others who share similar philosophies is empowering and will help parents to find the tools they need to grow a healthy family. What’s more, social support itself is health creating. Recent studies show that being socially connected to others can improve your physical health and is linked to lower mortality rates. Connecting with other holistic-minded parents can help you to learn, share, and continue your journey to a more natural and balanced life.
Building connections and cultivating an awareness of how our lifestyle choices impact other aspects of our health, well-being, and environment is at the heart of holistic parenting. The strong and nurturing connections that provide the foundation for attachment parenting are thus expanded and applied to our bodies, our communities, and our Earth. Holistic parents nurture their health through whole, organic foods; cultivate the body’s ability to heal without interference; and seek choices that connect them to a sustainable environment. By strengthening these connections, parents can find balance in personal, familial, and global realms.