Children and fright

Children and fright

I recently wrote a guest blog post for Sabine Wilms.  Sabine is an academic, translator, writer, publisher and educator extraordinaire.  She has translated several ancient Chinese texts, including Sun Simiao’s writings on paediatrics, from Chapter 5 of the Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang 備急千金要方 (Essential Formulas Worth a Thousand in Gold to Prepare for Emergencies).  It astounds me that, even though Sun’s work was written in 625AD, much of his wisdom is still relevant for today’s babies and children.  As a clinician, I feel that my work is more able to remain connected to the roots of the tradition, and is therefore hugely enhanced,  by being able to refer to these ancient texts.  I and others therefore owe a huge debt of gratitude to academics such as Sabine who devote their lives to the often painstaking work of translating these texts.

My blogpost includes some thoughts about one particular aspect of Sun’s work, a discussion of ‘fright’, and how I see this manifest in children in the clinic today.  For practitioners who are interested, I urge you to look at Sabine’s website (www.happygoatproductions.com) and to read her translations, which are available to buy on her site.

Here is the link to the blog post:

https://www.happygoatproductions.com/blog/2018/11/6/guest-post-rebecca-avern-on-children-and-fright

A chat with Kevin Durjin on UKHealthRadio

I was recently interviewed for Kevin Durjin’s show on the wonderful radio station UKHealthRadio.com. The station is devoted to informing listeners about an enormous variety of health-related topics.  I strongly urge you to check out their website.  Kevin and I talked about using acupuncture in the treatment of children.  Click on the link below and have a listen.

https://www.ukhealthradio.com/player/?ep=17319

Acupuncture for Babies, Children and Teenagers has been published!

I am thrilled to let you know that my book was launched last week, almost exactly three years from the day I received an email from the publishers asking if I’d be interested in writing it!  It has been the most remarkable experience from start to finish – at times extremely challenging but ultimately exceedingly rewarding on a personal and professional level.

The book sold out at the British Acupuncture Council annual conference last weekend in Coventry, where I was speaking and the feedback has been wholly positive so far, which is wonderful.  Singing Dragon have done a fantastic job on the book which looks and feels beautiful, with glossy white pages and a deep purple cover!

My main aim in writing the book is to encourage more acupuncturists to treat children.  I  see everyday how immensely beneficial acupuncture can be for children of all ages with a wide range of conditions.  And treating them is the most rewarding work I can imagine.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book, please click here.

Happy reading!!

My transatlantic interview experience!

A couple of weeks ago, with the help of technology that is way too deep for me to understand, I was interviewed by Jenny Dubrowsky in Chicago, about treating children and about my upcoming book.  Jenny is a successful and prolific acupuncturist/blogger/author.  Please check out her website www.tcm007.com.  Jenny has edited the interview, which (amazingly) felt like a relaxed chat with a friend in the same room, and posted some of the highlights.  Here are the links:

Snotty noses: illness or a necessary part of childhood?

I have seen several babies and toddlers in the clinic this week who have all been in the middle of what can only be described as ‘outpourings of snot’!  They are not ‘ill’, as such, and their parents report that they are happy and energetic.  However, they have an almost permanent stream of mucus running from their nose.

It is easy to jump to the assumption that this is inherently ‘a bad thing’, and a sign of ill health in some way, and certainly something that we should try to put an end to. From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there is another way of understanding this process.  The great physician Sun Simiao talked about the fact that babies and toddlers must go through phases of intense growth and development, which both enable them to become more ‘grounded’ in the world and also to throw off toxins that they have been born with.  Periods of ‘snotty-ness’, when the child is otherwise well, are often a sign of one of these intense phases of development.

So, rather than reaching for the Calpol and worrying that something is wrong, the best way to help a child through such a phase is to nurture them as best we can, provide them with lots of opportunity for rest and avoid over-stimulating them.  Parents often notice that, once this phase is over, their child has made some important developmental leaps.  For example, an eight month old baby may start sleeping through the night for the first time, or a three year old may decide they do not want to wear nappies anymore and take to toilet-training easily.  An older child may start speaking or engaging with others more confidently.

Growth and development are not linear, constant processes.  They happen in fits and starts, with regressions and big leaps forwards along the way.   The physical body may become temporarily out of kilter for a time.  It’s important to acknowledge and encourage acceptance of this process, rather than to always jump in and try to ‘fix’ it.  As practitioners, we can encourage parents to tune in to their intuition, so that they can recognise the difference between illness and development.

Babies and emotions

A friend of mine sent me this gorgeous clip of his baby daughter laughing.  As well as making me smile, it made me think about babies and emotions.  The relationship that babies have with their emotions is so different to that which we have as adults.

The first thing that struck me is how wonderfully spontaneous the baby’s laugh is.  There is no part of her that is questioning whether she should laugh or not, looking at how others might respond to her laughing or wondering whether she should not be doing it.  She is laughing because she finds something funny, and she stops when it no longer is.  It is her amazing lack of self-consciousness that enables her to do this.  When self-consciousness begins to emerge in children, they often start to inhibit their natural, emotional response to things.  In Chinese medicine, emotions are seen as a potential cause of disease.  One way that an emotion becomes a cause of disease is when it is repressed or held on to for too long.  If we could all continue to be as emotionally spontaneous as babies, we would all be much healthier (as well as happier).

The other thing that struck me watching the video is how the baby almost becomes the emotion.  When she is laughing, it is as if the whole of her is laughing.  This made me think about the strong connection in babies and toddlers between their body and their emotions.  If a baby’s body is uncomfortable because, for example, her tummy is too full of food or milk, she is likely to be grouchy and unhappy.  Conversely, if she is feeling lonely because she wakes up to find she is alone in her cot,  then she will often feel and manifest the distress in her body.  Chinese medicine does not really distinguish between the mind and the body, but babies are a fantastic example of how truly inter-connected these two parts of us really are.

Spring is here and yang is rising

Most of us feel a mixture of relief and happiness when the first signs of spring appear.  We get a bounce in our step and sometimes a surge in vitality too.  In Chinese Medicine, spring is a time when yang (the warm and active part of our energy) rises.

One would think that the end of winter would herald the end of pale, pasty and snotty children.  And it often does.  However, over the last couple of weeks I have had a lot of children come through the doors of the Panda Clinic with “spring diseases”.  In Chinese Medicine terms, when spring arrives pathogens that have been lurking in our bodies throughout the winter, are often brought to the surface.  Just as, in nature, bulbs flower and blossom appears on the trees, the extra heat brings things to the surface of the body.  Yang is rising, but in children it sometimes rises a bit too much and a bit too quickly!

This manifests in different ways in different children.  There is an increased incidence of febrile diseases, such as chicken pox, at this time of year.  The pock marks are literally a manifestation of heat that has been lurking in the body coming to the surface.  Children with skin diseases such as eczema may have a temporary flare up.

I have heard a lot of parents recently saying they “don’t know what has got in to” their child.  They aren’t sleeping so well, are more ratty, cross and irritable.  Springtime is related to the Liver organ in Chinese medicine.  The Liver Qi (energy) has to work quite hard to adapt to the change in the external conditions that come in spring.  What’s more, as if often the case in the UK, there is often a period of a few weeks when it’s warm one day, and cold again the next.  This constant fluctuation in temperature puts the Liver Qi under more strain.  These emotional changes that parents notice are a reflection of the Liver Qi trying, but struggling, to adapt.  In Chinese Medicine theory, we say that “the Liver hates change.”

In a few week time, however, both the weather and our children should be more settled.  The heat that is coming to the surface needs to be expelled and it is the sign of a robust child that their body is trying to do this.  The Yang will have risen, the Liver energy settled back down and calm will once more reign!!