As parents, we intuitively know our children are unique.
Even so, it can be quite shocking to have two kids who are complete opposites despite their parentage! Each child has different strengths and challenges and will need a different type of parenting in order to thrive.
You may also notice that each child tends to have different health problems. One child may spike a high fever with every illness and your other child has colds that always go into the chest. If your child suffers from a chronic illness, you may find their symptoms are much better or worse during certain seasons. Is there a way to understand these personality and health differences and use them to support our children?
Understand Your Child Better through the Five Elements
One of the best ways to understand all the factors that influence our children’s health and well-being is through the Five Element system in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Five Elements represent a system of correspondences that we can use to understand our child’s innate way of being in the world, which can help us fall in love with our child all over again as my mentor, Dr. Stephen Cowan, likes to say. It gives parents clues about which illnesses our children are vulnerable to and gives us tools to support them in their healing.
The Origins of the Five Elements
After thousands of years of observing the Five Elements in the earth’s ecosystem, Chinese philosophers applied the Five Elements to the individual ecosystem of our body, mind and spirit. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each Element has corresponding physical characteristics, personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses that shape each child’s overall health and way of being with the world. One particular way of being will influence the child’s personality, health and temperament above all others—their Dominant Element.
By knowing a child’s Dominant Element, we can understand her strengths and weakness, predict the types of illnesses she is more prone to and which season she’ll need the most support to keep her healthy. Click Here to Get Your Free Five Element Questionnaire & Guide
Below is a chart that shows some of the Elemental correspondences and what traits might be demonstrated in each child’s Element:
The Five Element Continuum
The Elements can be viewed as a continuum from super high energy and activity to more easygoing and slightly lower activity (although all kids are active). Identifying your child’s energy level is the first step to determining your child’s dominant Element, and then you can examine how to best support her.
An Overview of the Five Element Types
Wood Kids Have Tons of Energy
At one end of the spectrum, we have the Wood child who is very energetic, curious and adventurous. He is active and needs physical outlets in order to manage his energy and feelings, which will enable him to stay balanced. Curiosity and a drive to figure things out often lead to constant questioning of parents and teachers. He likes to push the boundaries to challenge himself and see how firm the boundaries are with authority figures.
Fire Kids are Active and Entertaining
On the more active side, is the Fire child who is bright, vibrant and seeks lots of stimulation. She wants her parents to entertain her and play with her, and loves being surrounded by friends and family. She’s a very active and engaging kid that likes constant movement. A Fire child may enjoy entertaining you by dancing and singing. She recharges by being around people, and can’t wait to share every detail of her day at school as soon as she sees you!
Earth Kids are Lovable Little Souls
In the middle of the spectrum, is the Earth child who is friendly, outgoing and talkative, but doesn’t necessarily enjoy being in the spotlight. He is mommy’s helper and is a loving child who’s very attached to Mom, Dad, Grandma and anyone else who cares for him. While your Earth child may go with the flow, he can also get worried about his family and friends or even his pets and is reluctant to be away from them for very long.
Metal Children Thrive on Routine and Rituals
We have the Metal Child who is easy going about many things, but also has a stubborn streak. She is loving with her close relatives, but shy with strangers. She thrives on routine and ritual and is particular about many things, especially foods, and may be sensitive to textures and tastes. She’s active, but not as active as Fire and Wood children who keep their parents on the go all the time. Instead, she enjoys a balance of activity and quiet time.
Water Kids are the Most Easy Going
On the other end of the spectrum, we find the Water child, who is very creative and is likely a deep thinker. She feels more deeply than other children and often understands emotional nuances in ways that are considered wise beyond her years. Parents may describe their water child as an “old soul.” They can occupy themselves for hours in their own creative world, exploring these deeper thoughts and feelings.
Respecting Our Children’s Differences
Even though we know our children are unique, we still want to make sure they’re on track with their growth and development. Comparing our children to others is one way to see whether or not they are following the “normal” curve, but it can sometimes lead to unnecessary worry.
Comparing your Metal child to your friend’s Fire child may make you wonder why your child is shy around strangers. “Pathologizing” a child’s behavior at a young age has become common among adults as words like ADHD are used to describe all manner of behaviors. Some parents refer to their high-energy Fire child as hyperactive or ADHD, while the shy quiet Water child who plays alone might be thought of as a loner or “on the spectrum” even before any formal diagnosis is made.
However, using the perspective of the Five Elements, we can see that the children are following their natural Dominant Element. This can free us up, as parents, to love and appreciate the unique traits and quirks that our children bring to our world.
Reframing Our Kid’s Behavior
While it’s important to seek medical care if you suspect your child is having issues with their growth and development, you can still reframe your child’s behavior in a positive and supportive way. Rather than view the high-energy child as hyperactive, we can view him as a Wood child who needs a physical outlet for his energy. Rather than view that shy quiet child as a loner, we can view him as a Water child that has a rich, creative inner world. First, we can allow our children to just be who they are without labels, then we can take steps to balance their Element and bring out the best in them.
Supporting Our Children’s Health through the Elements
Once we know our child’s dominant Element, we will know how best to support his or her health. For instance, a Metal child may need extra immune support during the fall and a Fire child may need a calming bedtime ritual to quiet her mind and help her fall asleep.
A Wood child needs plenty of outdoor activities and exercise, while a Water child needs a quiet place to play in his rich and creative inner world. The Earth child needs to develop a healthy relationship with food and eating and thrives by being part of a group.
When we understand the innate nature of our children, we begin to see patterns that allow us to understand the individual child’s needs and make subtle (but profound) changes to how we interact with and parent them.
We can honor the rhythm of their bodies and the way they need to recharge. We can model behaviors that will support their nature, guide their weaknesses and build upon their strengths. We can help them grow and develop in ways that are congruent with their Element, instead of trying to turn them into something they’re not meant to be naturally.
Curious What your Child’s Element Is?
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