One of the foundations of Chinese medicine is a theory called the 5 Elements, which include Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of these elements has a predictable set of characteristics and relationships with the other 4 elements. What is amazing is that in Chinese medicine, each of these also has corresponding physical and emotional features that can help us understand imbalances within ourselves and in our kids. Here is a brief look at each of the elements and their associations with some common challenges kids can face.
We encourage our kids to have direction but also to be adaptable: like young saplings that grow tall but that can bend when the wind changes. Too much change however can push that flexibility to its limits and lead to resistance and irritability. One of the biggest challenges, as we head back into the new season, is scheduling. Whether this time of year means activities are about to ramp up or dial down, they are probably going to change and gradual transitions of daily routines, like meal and bedtime, can make it smoother.
Creativity and open-hearted exploration are qualities we love about our kids. If social interactions and pressure to perform overwhelm them though, self-expression can be undermined by anxiety and neurosis. Cultivating skills of self -awareness can make a huge difference in a child’s self-expression. It’s probably never too early for kids to learn how to find a balance between activity and stillness through intentional practices like breathing meditation.
The Earth element is associated with digestion and this is one of the most common places that a child’s body will “tell” you that they are struggling. Regular balanced eating habits obviously have an effect on children’s physical health. In 5 element terms, this is no surprise as we see academic activities and learning as a kind of mental digestion. This continuum between physical, mental, and emotional health – a constant in Chinese medicine – is frequently played out with kids. While adjusting eating routines can be a monumental challenge, it’s usually well worth the effort.
Metal is what we make gates with in order to control flow between the inside and outside. It should come as no surprise then that Metal is the element associated with boundaries and our immunity. Being proactive to keep kids healthy includes helping them recognize changes in how they feel and letting you know so that small things, like sniffles, don’t get out of hand.
Water is adaptable to any circumstance or vessel it fills, yet in the 5 elements, it also has to do with our identity and what makes us unique. A growing sense of self is wonderful to watch children grow into, but it can become thwarted when they focus on comparisons between themselves and others. Helping a child develop self-confidence can help them find their way through all the big and small challenges that they’ll face at school.
Chinese medicine has a long tradition of effectively caring for children. In addition to acupuncture, there are needle-free techniques that are especially effective for young ones. We also use herbs, therapeutic bodywork, and other treatments to gently and safely help them with a broad range of health issues including.
- frequent colds & allergies
- emotional transitions
- short attention and hyperactivity
- acne and other skin disorders
- digestive and urinary problems
- developmental concerns
If this look into the 5 elements has helped you understand your child a little better, then you may be interested to learn more about how we care for kids, from a Chinese medicine perspective.