Holistic Wellness: A Whole Child Perspective

How often do you hear, “This new medicine just isn’t helping!” or “Can the therapist just move in with us?” or “We’ve tried everything, I just don’t know what else to do!” Parents are often left feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated when counseling and medication just don’t seem like enough. The truth is that they are right, counseling and medication simply aren’t enough.

When I first heard the term “Holistic Wellness,” I associated it with alternative medicines and trendy strategies like yoga, essential oils, and meditation. I’ve recently had the opportunity to broaden my understanding of Holistic Wellness and found that it is much broader than that. It focuses on a person’s health in four areas: physical, psychological, social and spiritual. In order for a person to be considered “well,” it’s important that none of these four areas are neglected and are treated with equal respect and importance. Here are some aspects within each area that may need consideration:

  • Physical: foods, nutrition, sleep cycle, exercise, activity level, water consumption, sugar intake, monitoring medical conditions, medication usage, allergies, food sensitivities, and sexual activity
  • Psychological: mental health, emotional expression, intellectual stimulation, self-esteem, managing feelings of shame and self-worth, educational achievement, managing stress levels
  • Social: attachment bond with caregivers, an opportunity for unstructured play with peers, connectedness with peers at school and outside of school, extracurricular activities, age-appropriate friendships, cultural identity
  • Spiritual: sense of purpose, moral code, connection with a higher power, connection with a faith community

The Physical area is influenced by parents every time they choose healthy food options, make sure their children are in bed at a consistent time each night, and provide prompt medical care. We encourage parents to research the connection between nutrition, activity level, sleep cycles, and any mental health diagnoses or medical diagnoses your child may have.

The Psychological area is influenced every time we teach a child a new coping skill, a new way to understand their choices and behaviors or help them gain greater insight into their emotions. Your therapist can help you identify ways to support your child through these tasks.

The Social area is influenced when you are developing a relationship and building trust with your child. The attachment bond between a parent and child is one of the most important bonds of life and forms a blueprint for how your child will relate to others across his or her lifespan. Fostering healthy relationships with others and providing opportunities for age-appropriate social interaction are important facets of holistic wellbeing.

The Spiritual area is addressed whenever we pass on our values and beliefs about how to make one’s life meaningful. Religious traditions and faith communities are a part of it, but parents can also teach children what their roles are within those communities and how their values can extend beyond a weekly religious service.

Recovery from trauma will require equal attention to each of these areas. While parents may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of dealing with the psychological area, the good news is that they have significant influence over the other three areas. By impacting a child’s physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing, the effects spill over into the child’s psychological wellbeing too!

– Emily Patterson, LICSW
APAC Family Advocate

–For additional reading on taking a holistic, whole-child focused approach to wellness, check out “The Yes Brain” by Daniel J. Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson Ph.D. You can also contact our APAC Library, to request for this book to be mailed to you through our free mail lending service. Call 866-803-2722 or visit our site to get started: childrensaid.org/apac.

–APAC offers free counseling to Adoptive Parents in Alabama. Reach out to our APAC Counseling Team at 866-803-2722 or email apac@childrensaid.org.