As this school year is about to begin, many parents and students are understandably experiencing more anticipatory anxiety than usual. At the best of times, the beginning of every school year is marked by a higher degree of nervous apprehension until things settle in and a routine is established. Many questions are running through the minds of parents as we anticipate the unknown.
As a parent of a 12 year old, like every parent, I have more questions than answers about how things will unfold in the new school year. Will school be a safe place for my child? Will my child be able to learn as well in the new environment? What challenges and pitfalls lie ahead that nobody has anticipated? What new things will parents have to learn and contend with? As if we don’t have enough to deal with already.
I have come to realize that children feel things very deeply and don’t always show it outwardly. Let’s not kid ourselves, children feel things more than we may realize. They pick up on our fears and insecurities and the negativity that comes from news media and everywhere around us. Children are taking it all in, and it is affecting them in ways that we as parents may not recognize or understand, and every child is different. We know from The Great Depression of the 1930’s that the lives of future generations were changed in ways that would not have happened had the depression not occurred. We will have to wait and see for the full extent of the pandemic’s impact on the collective consciousness of the new generation.
During 4 years of naturopathic medical training and 25 years of practice as a naturopathic physician I learned some fundamental truths about health in general and children’s health in particular. I learned that health is more than the absence of symptoms of disease. I learned from the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, and other insightful and forward-thinking researchers of the last century that nutritional deficiencies in a mother’s diet are passed down to the next generation. Dr. Weston A. Price carefully and meticulously documented how anatomical characteristics that develop as a result of deficiencies in a mother’s diet are passed on to the offspring in a manner that resembles how genetic traits are passed on from generation to generation. Observational data from animal studies showed that it takes 3 generations on a fully optimal diet to reverse the developmental changes induced by a suboptimal maternal diet.
But diet is only one aspect of health. What about the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects? We don’t have a systematic body of documented evidence such as Dr. Weston A. Price’s landmark book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” to fall back on to answer the kinds of questions emerging from this pandemic. Of course, we have to make sure that our kids sleep well, eat well, play and socialize well, get fresh air and sunshine, interact with the natural world, and get all the foundational prerequisites for health. When it comes to what our children need beyond the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and an education, we are all traversing in uncharted territory. We just don’t know the full depth and breadth of the mental and emotional consequences that will emerge from this pandemic when everything is said and done.
So, what do we do? As with everything else we, of course, can Google. There is a lot of good information out there amidst a sea of opinion and pontification. A good resource for parents who did not receive a User Manual upon their child’s arrival into this world might be a free email subscription to The New York Times Parenting Newsletter. A recent timely article is entitled “Keeping a Love for School Alive”. Here is the link. See what you think.
I believe that the role of parents is to guide our children through school and life as safely and effectively as we can based on our experiences from what we learned in school and in life. All parents strive to give our kids the best possible upbringing and the best possible education. We try to give them everything that we got plus everything that we needed but failed to get for whatever reasons. We build on top of what we were given.
Like always, we need to stay positive at a time when it is easy to get down from so much that is negative around us. For every problem there is a solution. The difficult takes time. The impossible takes a little longer. We need to have faith, no matter what our faith.
This is a time, more than ever, to remind ourselves of The Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, which appears strikingly similar to a verse in the Bible. The Serenity Prayer, considered to be the most famous and beloved prayer of the last century, is commonly quoted as follows:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
What more can be said?