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from Natural Life magazine, September/October 2009
From the Editor's Desk

Natural Life Editor Wendy PriesnitzTraumatized Children, Traumatized World

Melting ice caps, droughts, a revived nuclear threat, dysfunctional democracies, renewed hunger in Africa, millions losing their jobs and homes due to others’ greed, the emotional impoverishment that gives more media coverage to a dead rock star than to repression in China…. The world’s trauma is, thankfully, far away as I sit writing in my backyard on a sunny mid-summer day. And yet, as I finish work on this issue, David Albert’s brave article about the effect of trauma on children keeps the concept top of mind.

In this article, David is not thinking about trauma in far off places, although that is certainly of concern to him (and healing it is part of how he lives his life). He writes, instead, about the wounds experienced by children in our own society through adult pressure, especially as a result of their forced attendance at schools that all too often rob them of their dignity, respect and human rights. Some readers will think he overstates the case when he likens the effects of the repetitive and ongoing stress felt by children to the experiences of soldiers returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. But he makes a compelling case by comparing the hyper-arousal, defiance and dissociation that are hallmarks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the behavior of some children and young people as they try to deal with the pain of humiliation, disrespect, injustice and constant assessment of school and their other day-to-day environments. And, he notes, these are also the “symptoms” of so-called disorders such as ADHD and ODD.

David’s message is that we must remove the stress from our children’s learning. But beyond that, we must learn new ways to parent. Léandre Bergeron is a parent, social activist and writer whose article points the way. Léandre suggests that we treat our children as “distinguished guests” – people we respect and admire for who they are and who grace us with their presence. He has much more wisdom to share in his new book For the Sake of Our Children, which we’ve just published and from which the article is excerpted.

As David Albert’s writing partner Joyce Reed says, “Repetitive stress makes children stiff with resistance. They lose their flexibility, resiliency, their open minds and comprehensive vision.” And that, writes David, is ominous, for the sake of both our children and our world: “Our society’s inability to deal creatively with major social issues – from war to poverty to ecological devastation – stems from our collective incapacity to think straight because of the impacts of past injuries and insults to our psyches.”

I think that, collectively, we have yet to own up to the damage we do to our children. Nor are we willing to make the sweeping changes in our institutions, public policies and personal lives that are necessary to reverse that harm to our children and to our society. Natural Life’s mandate is to suggest such changes, and this issue is full of new ideas and vision. Take, for instance, our cover written by straw bale builder Cadmon Whitty, whose flexibility and problem-solving abilities allowed him to invent a new sustainable construction technique. Or Natalia Prokopenko, who saw beyond the consumer mentality of her newly adopted country in order to embrace the timeless traditions of product-free attachment parenting.

All of these writers are contributing to positive change by, to paraphrase one of my favorite lines by singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, taking advantage of the cracks that appear in everything, which is where the light gets in.

Natural Life Editor Wendy Priesnitz

 

 

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