I’m constantly researching new natural supplements (vitamins, amino acids, herbs, oils…) that new Integrative medicine research suggests may be beneficial for my son’s brain and, consequently, behaviour. My newest supplements are powders of chlorella and spirulina, which may help rid the body of heavy metals and promote health in other areas. I’m game for anything. We all ingest an enormous amount of toxic material from our environment daily, and it surely damages all parts of us.
“Spirulina and chlorella are thought to help our brains and body get rid of heavy metals,” I tell my kids as I prepare it in a glass (we don’t have a blender to mix it into a smoothie, which is preferable since it takes like seaweed and grass).
“Can’t we just listen to lots of classical music instead?” jokes my younger [violent] son [who studies voice, theory, banjo, and clarinet].
Point for musical kid whose brain may very well be adversely affected by the heavy metals in his system and environment.
Raising kids with “issues” is exhausting. You have a life you are trying to lead yourself; maybe a marriage you’re trying to conduct; and other children to raise. So many of us are overwhelmed, over-stressed, over-extended. A new school year makes me aware of the treadmill of family life.
Facing the academic year makes me take stock of my son’s growth, his current stage, what is working, and what new interventions to try for the year ahead. Our summers are less harried than the school year but not much more relaxing. We don’t have the funds for vacations away from home, which is disappointing but is also helpful. Running around on vacation is busy and distracting, while being at home allows me some time and space to research new methods of support for my son’s development.
My son is always in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern. I’m aware that teen testosterone is starting to kick into the picture, which isn’t welcome when you’re dealing with impulse control and anger issues. Nature’s extra dose of mindless, brute strength isn’t a welcome development. Most of the violence on the planet is being created by males in their peak testosterone-pumped years. If all that raw energy were put to use to make a better planet it would be nice; but human male energy tends to be destructive.
So, to that end I have introduced two seemingly competing and incongruous strategies.
One, we began watching ‘Beyond Scared Straight’ from TV’s A&E channel, which documents at-risk teens being taken through dry-runs of the reality of prison life. It’s raw, loud, and painful. Kids in the program are as young as 12 years old, so I feel it’s a useful adjunct to all my modalities for teaching my son what the world will do to him if he doesn’t change. Unfortunately, the series is ending after nine seasons. I’m hoping we’ll still be able to catch it in reruns.
The second strategy is watching Youtube videos of lectures given by an Australian-born Buddhist monk, Venerable Robina Courtin, whose style I describe as “angry Buddhist granny”. She approaches and explains Buddhism from a particularly Western, feisty, logic-seeking viewpoint that is refreshing beside the annoying, feeble, cloying ‘namaste’ bullshit of Westerners whose syrupy Buddhism style won’t find takers among tween and teen boys (or me…).
Venerable Robina Courtin presents her Tibetan Buddhism as schools of philosophy and psychology rather than a belief system to be blindly followed. I have been comfortable with Buddhist ideas since I was about four years old (I came by them naturally), so the ideas — and in particular her style — fit very nicely into the emotional-spiritual-mental-moral diet I’m putting onto my kids’ plates.
Buddhists believe that we are entirely responsible for our thoughts, our minds, our actions, and our lives. And that the negative emotions we swim in are destructive and that we must consciously choose positive, constructive thought patterns. All of this is perfectly in tandem with what a child like my son needs to learn. That he is responsible for his thoughts and his actions, and that it’s his responsibility at every step to learn to support himself, contain himself, and be happy.
Of course it’s not possible to put a thousand-year-old belief system into six words, but suffice to say that Buddhism is a particularly logical and helpful system of thought training for a child struggling with impulse control issues and lots of negative thinking. [Schools rename all of this “mindfulness training” but it all comes directly from the Buddha; it’s no Western invention.]
So, going into Grade 7 we’re armed with Buddhism; green supplements; an amino acid supplement; Omega-3 oils; extra zinc and vitamin D; and a solid multivitamin. We’re 90% gluten-free, sugar/sweetener-free, and we’ve ramped up our consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. We get our son into nearby mountains for hikes as much as possible for nature’s gifts to his brain and microbiome, and his music training always supports his spirit.
Here we go into another year. [The ‘pop’ you hear is the cork on my wine…]. And may I express my gratitude here to Venerable Robina Courtin, whose work is helping us in ways she’ll never know. We thank her and we thank the Buddha.