You're crammed into the car for a family vacation, and your kids are getting antsy. Red-haired Mandy keeps saying, "I'm hot!" and "I'm hungry. When do we eat?" She is trying to get the others to play car games, which she usually wins. Thin, wiry Jenna is talking a mile a minute, wound up from the travel and anxious to get there. Suresh, who is prone to gaining weight, congenially listens to his sisters and then drifts off to sleep.
As every mother knows, no two children are alike. Just as one child may have blond hair and another dark, psychological and physical needs can also vary widely from child to child.
The health and creativity of the child is based on how much good feeling, how much emotional, physiological, and psychological nourishment he or she receives from the parents. And once you understand your child's mind-body type -- his or her basic make-up -- you know how to help.
Know Your Child
The three main Ayurvedic mind-body types are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Of the three children, Mandy is a typical Pitta type, with her red hair and fair skin. The fire in her personality is expressed as anger when she's stressed and affection when she's feeling balanced.
For this type of child, it's better not to make promises but just to surprise her or present things when they are in place, for she will become emotionally distraught when disappointed. A Pitta child should avoid hot, spicy foods such as hot peppers, and should eat more cooling foods such as sweet lassi, sweet, juicy fruits, and cooked vegetables. Mandy is not the sort of child who can handle it well if a meal is delayed -- she should have snacks on hand if the meal is going to be late. Even though Mandy may enjoy competitive sports, she should avoid getting overheated, and should stay out of the sun.
Jenna is a typical Vata-type -- quick to learn, always moving, and prone to anxiety and insomnia. A Vata-based child such as Jenna thrives on a daily oil massage and abundant hugs, as the sense of touch soothes Vata dosha. While a regular daily routine, with regular meals and early bed-time is important for all growing children, it is absolutely essential with a Vata child. Jenna's parents will want to take care not to feed her too much Vata-aggravating foods, such as dry cereals, raw vegetables, crackers, and cold foods and drinks.
As for Suresh, he is probably an easier child to raise in some ways; as a classic Kapha type, he is more easy-going. However, it's important for parents not to overlook the needs of Kapha children just because they aren't as demanding. John's parents should get him involved in sports, as Kapha children thrive on vigorous exercise but may not seek it out unless prodded. Kapha children may be slower to learn in school, but can be excellent scholars if given time and patience. They have excellent long-term memories. Suresh will feel healthiest if he avoids heavy, cold desserts such as ice cream and cheesecake, and in general should eat light, warm, foods such as soups and cooked vegetables.
Of course, most children won't fall so neatly into these three categories. There are seven different combinations of these three basic types. A child might be Vata-Pitta, or Pitta-Kapha, or Vata-Kapha. Or he or she might be a combination of all three.
Foods to Grow On
All children should eat lots of fresh organic foods, with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as these foods have more chetana or intelligence than fresh foods. An excess of "junk" foods may create mental imbalance according to ayurveda. Indeed, recent research shows that additives in junk foods, if eaten as a steady diet, can actually lower IQ.
Organic dairy products such as whole milk and freshly made yogurt are ideal proteins for children, as are soaked almonds and walnuts. Spices such as turmeric, cumin and pepper help digestion, metabolism and brain nourishment, and should be introduced in small pinches if your child is not accustomed to them. Some spices are anti-oxidants, and black pepper helps enhance utilization of oxygen in the brain.
The Main Idea is Balance
All fathers and mothers should examine the quality and quantity of fat, protein, sugar, and air the children are ingesting. The brain needs these four major nutrients for mental clarity and integrated functioning. Recommended fats include ghee (clarified butter) and olive oil, and recommended sugar includes organic raw sugar, Sucanat, honey and rock sugar. Even if it's of good quality, it's important not to let the child eat too much fat or sugar. Just as an example, the average American consumes 125 lbs. of sugar a year, when just a hundred years ago the average was two pounds.
With stress so much a part of modern life, a weekly oil massage and relaxing aromatherapy can be beneficial for children. Make sure they get enough sleep, and that they get plenty of affection and understanding. If you manage your own time and stress levels well, you act as powerful role-models for your children.
Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
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