The Fire Element

This post is an introduction to some of the key themes related to the Fire Element.  Each child has all of the five Elements within him and therefore a discussion of the Fire Element is relevant for every child.  However, for some children it will be more relevant than for others.  We are all born with varying innate tendencies, and each child will have areas of life in which they excel and areas they find more challenging.  If having read this post, you feel that your child has an imbalance in their Fire Element, then the suggestions at the bottom will be especially relevant for them.    

Key themes related to the Fire Element 

Appropriate levels of joy; relationships; intimacy; speech; enthusiasm; excitement; emotional vitality; emotional stability

Factors that challenge the healthy development of the Fire Element

Your child may have an imbalance in their Fire Element without having experienced any of the factors described below. We are all born with an innate, constitutional imbalance in one of the Five Elements.

A lack of love, warmth, attention, intimacy and communication

The Fire Element is nourished and sustained by healthy contact with other people.  There are very few people who can maintain a sense of joy in life without feeling connected to others.  For a child to grow up with this feeling of connection she needs an abundant supply of ongoing love and warmth.  

This seems almost too obvious to state.  Yet it is quite possible, and very common, for a child to have parents who love them more than anything in the world yet not to feel loved.  Busy lives, work pressures and relationship problems are just a few examples of the everyday reality of many parents, which makes it difficult for them to communicate their love to their children.  

As a child grow older, it becomes more important for them to feel connected to people outside of the family.  If things are not going well at school for a child, it can have a damaging effect on the Fire Element.

Living in a depressed environment

The Fire Element is also nourished by a joyous and happy atmosphere.  Of course, it is not possible (or desirable) for the environment to always be happy. But a lack of laughter in the family, or one or both parents having a chronically low mood, will often make it hard for the Fire Element in a child to develop in a healthy way.  Children are like sponges and internalise the atmosphere in which they grow up.  If the household is lacking in joy, the child may begin to feel this as her default, emotional state.

Shock and melodrama

Chinese medical texts explain that the Heart (by which we mean the energetic function of the Heart meridian – not the physical organ itself) is the first to be affected by shock.  The Heart belongs to the Fire Element.  

Shock may come in the form of a one-off event or may be a more chronic situation.  A one-off event such as a parent abruptly leaving may have such an impact on the child’s Fire Element that she never really recovers from it.  But an environment where there is constant melodrama can have a similar effect.  For example, a parent who is repeatedly threatening to leave, or a family where every week there is some kind of crisis which evokes intense emotions, can lead to a child’s Fire Element receiving repeated blows.  

How might we recognise that the Fire Element in a child is struggling?

A child may struggle to maintain appropriate levels of joy

In the usual course of life, a child will have a wide range of moods.  There are good days and bad days, happy and sad moments.  However, a child whose Fire Element is imbalanced, may struggle in any one of the following ways:

  • She struggles to feel joyful and buoyant when she is on her own or not involved in an exciting activity.  Sometimes, she fails to light up even when with a good friend or engaged in something she loves.
  • She is compulsively cheerful and is unable to connect with any sad feelings.  She fears rejection if she is not constantly entertaining everyone.  She may be ‘the class clown’ at school.
  • She swings between these two states and tends to be either lacking in joy or excessively jolly, and struggles to find a place of balance between the two extremes.

A child may struggle in the realm of relationships

The Fire Element underlies a child’s ability to form meaningful connections with other people.  If the Fire Element is not healthy, it may mean that relationships of every variety is the area a child finds the most challenging.  The difficulties may manifest in any of the following ways:

  • She is closed off and unable to form intimate friendships.  She feels too vulnerable to risk intimacy.  She may have a big group of ‘friends’ but not be able to develop a close friendship with any one person.  
  • She may be desperate for people contact all the time.  This may lead her to count someone she has just met as a new ‘best friend’, leaving her open to being hurt and rejected when this is not reciprocated. She may only feel happy when she is relating to others, and therefore struggle to spend any time on her own.
  • She may feel excessively vulnerable.  She may be devastated when a sibling says they do not want to play with her or a classmate plays with another child.  She may dread big, family gatherings where she is expected to interact with many different people.  

How can we help the Fire Element in our children to develop strongly?

Provide as much love, warmth, communication and intimacy as possible

These are such basic things but it needs saying!  Being busy is the enemy of intimacy.  Sometimes just ensuring there are times throughout the week when we are not rushing or distracted, and have time to really listen to our children can make an enormous difference.

Try to create an emotional stable and constant environment at home

Of course, there are times in life when this is not possible and periods of emotional intensity are not usually detrimental to a child.  However, the atmosphere in the household one of ongoing, chronic emotional volatility, it is worth exploring ways to mitigate this wherever possible.  For example, there may be something that a parent can change in their own life that will relieve some strain. 

Create opportunities for fun, joy and laughter

Modern family life can feel pressured and hectic.  Parents can easily feel burdened by their various commitments and responsibilities.  Sometimes we need to make a conscious effort to remember to laugh.  Laughter, humour and fun all nourish a child’s Fire Element (as well as our own of course).  So it is important for our children for us to ‘check in’ and remind ourselves of the lighter side of life. 

Permission to be low sometimes

At the same time, emotional health means being able to connect with our melancholic  feelings too.  Even children, who to some degree epitomise joy and vitality, have times when they feel sad.  If a child gets the feeling they are expected to always have a smile on their face, it will strain the Fire Element within them. 

Support in managing friendships

Having good relationships is known to be one of the key factors to achieve robust physical and mental health. It is particularly important for the health of the Fire Element.  However,  creating and managing friendships is not something we are good at teaching.  When a child gets to the age of creating connections outside of the family, supporting them to navigate this area well is crucial.  Giving a child an opportunity to talk about what they are finding difficult, and modelling good relationship skills will both be beneficial.  


Factors that might hinder the healthy development of the Fire Element:

  • A lack of love, warmth, attention, intimacy and communication
  • Living in a depressed environment
  • Shock and melodrama

Indications that the Fire Element may be struggling:

  • A child struggles to be joyful 
  • A child finds creating and maintaining healthy relationships of all kinds particularly challenging.  

Support for the healthy development of the Fire Element may include:

  • Provide as much love, warmth, communication and intimacy as possible
  • Try to create an emotional stable and constant environment at home
  • Create opportunities for fun, joy and laughter
  • Permission to be low sometimes
  • Support in managing friendships
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