Meeting children’s wellness needs

September 5, 2012

Children and Teens, Family, Parenting

We can and must take back our power — our inborn, delightful power of caring for the children.

by Vanessa Chamberlain — 

Parents today have the daunting task of going against status quo in order to meet their children’s well-being needs. Due, in part, to corporate agendas, the pervasiveness of media and the disappearance of cohesive communal values, there is an unprecedented lack of support for parents who wish to maintain the sanctity of childhood. We, as a culture, are beginning to witness the effects of children’s disconnection from meaning.

The list of effects is long and disturbing; however, many are shared here in an effort to identify and champion real solutions. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes; chronic, myriad physical complaints; generalized fear and paranoia; emotional and learning disorders that lead to clinical labeling; loss of wonder and imagination; addictions; frenetic energies; poor academic performance; feelings of isolation, meaninglessness and hopelessness; suicidal tendencies; aggression/violence in all forms; and a pervasive apathy.

As recently as the 1980s, parents had a say in what they wanted for their children. They also trusted their own wisdom and were often unshakable in the face of their children’s nagging and questioning. That solid knowing, that internal wisdom, is now being questioned. Modern parents doubt themselves. Corporate agendas bank on it.

We can and must take back our power — our inborn, delightful power of caring for the children. To do this, we first acknowledge that behavior is the primary language of childhood. Therefore, children’s unmet well-being needs are most often expressed through their behaviors.

Our children show the effects of our toxic environments more readily than we, as they are still innocent and react strongly when their fundamental needs go unmet. We often regard their negative behavior as a signal that something inherent in them must be changed, fixed or drugged, versus a sign that something in their social environment may be very, very wrong.

We ground ourselves through meeting our own well-being needs, and by next committing to meeting our children’s needs for well-being. These are universal human needs and are presented in terms of holistic (mind, body, spirit) wellness. They include the following.

Physical needs — Rest, nutrition, movement, nature and play.

Emotional/psychological needs — Structure, consistency, predictability, attention, love, safety and freedom of expression.

Intellectual/mental needs — Age-appropriate exposures, stimulation, extracurricular and daily activities, nurturing educational environments and opportunities for personal creativity, imagination, reading and quiet contemplation.

Spiritual/moral needs — Meaning, connection, rhythm, ritual, tradition and community.

Solutions can be manifested through action. We must surround ourselves with those people, places and things that support our inherent parental wisdom and the decisions we make as we create a sacred time and space for childhood.

We must become involved in the community. Myriad opportunities exist to create more childhood wellness right here in our own communities.


Vanessa Chamberlain is the director of the Cultural Wellness and Family Enrichment Center which provides cultural, familial and childhood wellness education and consultations. The Childhood Wellness Project addresses factors that are undermining childhood wellness in our community. 602-432-3707 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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