Nature is a healing balm. The fresh air, sunshine, and dirt helps our bodies heal from the outside in.
But many parents and health care providers often overlook this simple and powerful medicine. Nature therapy, or eco-therapy, states that a health connection with the natural world can lead to greater personal health and wellness. Although this term is typically applied to eco-psychology and the mind, the benefits of nature abound for physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
One of the easiest ways to bring nature back to natural medicine is to prescribe doses of nature to children and families. Here’s how I bring a nature-based approach to my work with kids:
1. Evaluate a child for signs of nature deficit disorder.
This can be simply observing, asking questions about their connection to the natural world, and/or using the Nature Deficit Disorder Diagnosis Checklist to narrow in on the severity of nature disconnect.
2. Decide what is workable for a family
By co-creating a family-centered nature plan, we take into account the needs, desires, and challenges of individual families. We can then effectively craft a holistic nature treatment plan that helps a child heal within the existing structure of their family and community.
3. Prescribe specific and realistic nature interventions
A simple and casual suggestion to “get into nature” is too vague for most people. Parents need specific ideas and clear directions on how and when to get “au natural” with their kids. This involves writing down tasks, giving examples when needed, and asking parents straight-up if it’s doable. Telling families to go plant a garden is very different than giving them a list of resources, handouts, or diagrams on how to garden.
4. Remember to follow-up
It’s super easy to give out a bunch of information to parents and think you’ve done a good job. But really that just does a disservice to our patients. It is uber critical in follow-up visits to ask questions, to check in, and to offer additional support, if needed. Some of the best stories and insights come from my patients after they implement a nature prescription.
Okay, that’s a quickie run down for you. As always, think on the ideas here and let me know if you have any questions by commenting below!