March 2020 changed our lives forever. In a blink of an eye, our hugs and social routines, our business travel and vacations were taken from us. Almost overnight, the world shut down, filled with fear of the unknown, fear of sickness, fear of interaction.
Digital meetings replaced social gatherings and conferences. Online classrooms replaced schools.
Many people who had stable jobs suddenly found themselves jobless and no longer able to pay their bills. Some face the reality of hunger and homelessness.
We went from a world we felt we controlled, to a world that was now out of our control. So many of us became overwhelmed and encompassed with hopelessness.
Before the pandemic, I was a busy physician, entrepreneur, international speaker and author. In March, homebound with my four boys, ages 4 through 12, I had to add several other titles to my CV: lunch lady, PE teacher, art teacher, music teacher, janitor, and most importantly, principal.
What was I going to do? It was overwhelming, and I was on the verge of spiraling down into a dark endless abyss. But the tools of holistic medicine helped us to hold on, and ultimately to step out of the world of hysteria and come back into a world of reason.
I was definitely not equipped or trained to manage the daily schedules of 4 children. So, I took matters in my own hands—I turned regular schooling into “life schooling”. I turned my personal and professional work into work we now can do together as a family. Holistic medicine went from “me” to “we.”
My writing projects turned into OUR projects. My interviews turned into OUR interviews. My books turned into OUR books. My mission turned into OUR mission.
Adam’s Healing Adventures
All children love stories. I know mine do.
With the summer break upon us, and no camps, no swimming lessons, no sports, we had a lot more time to spend together. So as a family project, we decided to write a holistic children’s book.
And so, Adam’s Healing Adventures was born.
The book highlights the key foundations of holistic and functional medicine, in a simple, easy, fun story about a boy named Adam and his friends.
At the beginning, Adam doesn’t feel well, and he wonders why. Why can’t he run like the other kids? Why does he have rashes? Why is he always sneezing and having trouble breathing? To his surprise, what he learns from his friends will change his life forever!
Adam’s friends show him how we can all take care of our bodies, lowering the bad fire (chronic inflammation) that leads to sickness, thereby improving overall health and preventing chronic conditions in people of all ages.
He also learns that he is not alone. Many of the other kids—including his best friend Noah—have had health challenges. And he finds out about all the different nutritional and lifestyle factors that can help him get healthy.
Finally! A book meant to educate and empower children about the value of a healthy lifestyle! Our pandemic project turned into a dream come true, as Mark Hyman, Wellness Mama, Terry Wahls, Deanna Minich, Tom O’Bryan, Darin Ingles, and so many other thought leaders in the functional medicine world shared the book with their followers. Dr Hyman and Wellness Mama even sent the book out in their newsletters! Now how cool is that?! My kids were thrilled.
Our Healing Routines
“You will never change your life, until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”– John C. Maxwell
Of course, we had to make sure that we were maintaining our own holistic lifestyles during the lockdown.
My parenting rules are straightforward: Educate and be a great role model. It is really that simple. Children don’t follow what we say, they follow what we do.
I talk with my children regularly about each part of my own daily routine, educating them why I am doing what I am doing. Through years of discussion, they know why gratitude, sunshine, nature, rainbow foods, meditation, and good sleep are important for optimal health.
With a grateful mindset, we then instilled our “healing routine”. We start the day with morning sunshine outdoors. We spend the early morning harvesting our garden, sampling the produce, and using the food we picked to create a delicious breakfast together.
The children know that each bite we take can either hurt us or help us. They know that we need to put nutrient-dense foods in our bodies, foods that will keep our gut bacteria happy and optimize our hormone levels. They know the effects of different types of foods, and they can recognize the difference between real foods and “fake” foods filled with chemicals.
For breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, we concentrate on “eating the rainbow,” eating lots of veggies, clean proteins, and healthy fats. We have a list that helps them to focus on foods they can eat, not foods they can’t eat.
Meals & Meditations
The key to this is to stock our pantry and fridge for success. My kitchen is filled with foods they can eat, not foods they shouldn’t be eating. There is nothing in the house they can’t eat. This eliminates a lot of food-related stresses, as there are no arguments. The children see a world of delicious possibilities with optimal health benefits.
With a one-hour lunch, we have split this time into 30 minutes of eating and 30 minutes of meditation. This has helped the children stay grounded in a time of increased stress and helps me get my daily meditation into the routine.
After school, we make a conscious effort to spend time outdoors, sweating, exercising, and again working in our garden together. In the evenings, we have dinner, do our clean up chores, and then it’s dry brushing, Epsom salt baths, prayer, scripture, books, gratitude practice, and sleep. Then our healing day starts over again.
One key to all of this is mindfulness. I teach my boys to pay attention to what’s happening in their bodies, their minds, and their souls.
Growing up, I thought being constipated, tired and having chronic rashes were part of “my normal”, until holistic integrated medicine taught me otherwise. I had to learn to be mindful. I wanted my children to have that right from the start, and it is really working.
One morning, I asked my 9-year-old if he wanted breakfast. He said, “No, I woke up a little agitated, so I will be intermittent-fasting this morning, as I feel I ate too many fruits yesterday.”
Lunch came around, and he wanted sauerkraut to balance his gut bacteria and his insulin levels. He has learned to adjust his lifestyle to help bring his body back into balance, as he was feeling like it was teetering in the wrong direction! The power of knowledge!
All the boys know that their bodies “talk” to them via their out-of-the-norm symptoms. If my 5-year-old has diarrhea, he talks to me about what may have caused it and he avoids those foods to see if his symptoms improve. If my 7-year-old feels fatigued, he looks back at his day, figures out that maybe he has not been detoxing well, and gets in an Epsom salt bath.
The children are very aware of their bodies, and if anything is off balance, they have learned to correct it, without me in the picture!
Chores as Learning Moments
Chores are a big part of the children’s lives. There are studies showing a connection between having household chores in childhood and adult success down the road.
In my household, we try to get most of the chores done in the morning. Before their online learning begins, the dishes are done, the laundry is folded, my cooking is done, the house is clean. Each of the children has his responsibilities. My 5-year-old unloads the dishwasher. My 7-year-old is responsible for cleaning whatever needs to be cleaned. My 9-year-old is vacuuming, and my 12-year-old is loading the dishwasher and putting away the dishes.
Meanwhile, I finish the cooking and baking for the day. By 9 am we are done with all our chores, and ready to work on all our projects to “save the world.”
By educating, role modeling, and conversing about our bodies and our decisions, the boys learn that every bite and every action can have an influence on their internal and external world. They’re learning the power of their own choices.
From Fear to Hope
From the very beginning, I saw the quarantine as a God-blessed opportunity to spend unlimited time with my family, to educate and empower my children, and to help them become leaders who will benefit humanity.
We started by taking them out of a world filled with fear and hopelessness, and into a one where positive choices were always an option.
With limited control on what was going on in the outside world, I took control of what I could control—the things that go on in my house. In a world filled with negativity, I wanted the children to wake up to a world of positivity, of hopes, dreams, able to accomplish anything to which they put their minds and their efforts. I want them to rise daily to world filled with possibilities.
During the lockdown, we doubled down on gratitude practices. Every morning, we sang songs, had discussions, and even had “projects” to put sticky notes all over the house of all the things we were all thankful for. We woke with gratitude, our days were flooded with gratitude, and before going to sleep each night we thanked our creator for all that we were thankful for.
We took an active commitment to keep our subconscious positive instead of negative.
My job was to help them plant the seeds. Gratitude watered those seeds, filling their lives with hope, allowing them to convert problems to solutions.
The Holistic Kids’ Show
Children are not just our future, they are our future leaders. Children are braver, stronger, and smarter than most of us realize. We, as parents, are teachers, guides, leaders, protectors, providers, and educators.
But so often, children know what they need. They know the direction, and they are intuitively able to guide others. I wanted to nurture that innate leadership.
With lots of extra time at home, and with all the holistic knowledge they have gained over the years, my boys became interested in educating other children.
There are so many health websites and podcasts for adults, with adults talking to other adults. Where is the educational information for children from children? We know without doubt that kids can easily learn unhealthy behavior from each other. Why can’t they also learn healthy lifestyles from each other? Where are the resources for that?
Leaders see a problem and create a solution. In this case, my children knew that kids like to learn from other kids. They wanted to share their health knowledge with their peers. So they came up with The Holistic Kids’ Show podcast.
Taking full charge, my 12 and 9-year-olds are now setting up and hosting interviews with other kids as well as functional medicine experts. They come up with the questions, navigate the interviews, and interact with their audience.
Interviewing experts has given them the confidence they need, plus the added bonus of hearing about health issues from someone other than me!
The response has been fantastic, as parents are now sitting down and educating their kids by watching and listening to our podcasts. The boys love empowering other kids. And the interest from practitioners to appear as guests has also been amazing: if we schedule everyone who is willing to be interviewed, we’re already booked out till 2022!
Followers to Leaders
“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those that care for and protect our people”–Nelson Mandela
Every mothers’ dream is for her child to create positive change.
How can we expect our children to be leaders if we don’t educate them about the importance of health, time, and responsibility?
This pandemic is calling on us to do the best we can, to be the best we can, and to recognize that this is not just another “chore” we as parents need to do. Educating our kids about health, and being healthy role models for them, is vitally important.
Play with the children in your lives, talk to them, engage with them, empower them, educate them, and learn from them. When we do that, they model our behaviors.
This pandemic can have a silver lining. We now have the time to connect and engage with those who matter most. When we empower children, they can empower others. Each child can be a drop in the ocean to create a ripple effect that can change the world, inside and out.