Back to Basics: Emotional and Physical Warmth

Warmth is one of those areas parents in the United States  seem to rarely think about.  Everywhere I go I see hatless infants, infants and children who are under-dressed.

It is getting to be the time of year to think about physical warmth.  There is a wonderful article here regarding this topic:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/

Here is part of that article for your careful thought and meditation:

Cold is a stress for the body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.  (If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts: the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).

Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.

In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.

Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs.”

I know it can be such a challenge to keep clothes on children!  Just keep reminding yourself that just whilst you wouldn’t drive around without a child in a car seat, you will not under-dress your child.  Be firm that when we put clothes on, we (get to go outside, go eat our snack, etc.).  Hold that intention in your heart that this really is important for their health and carry that through!

My favorite place to order woolens and woolen/silk blends is through www.greenmountainorganics.com.  However, I am completely not above thrift store finds.  :)

Emotional warmth is an essential part of parenting.  This was a three-day challenge I posted last October and think it would be an excellent time to renew this focus (the latter part of this focuses on spouses, so change the focus and  language as appropriate to your household!)

But I think the other thing to think about sincerely is how to convey EMOTIONAL warmth to our children.  How many times a day do we laugh with our children?  Hug our children or have them sit on our lap?  Smile at our children?  Say positive and encouraging things to our children?

So, my three-day challenge to you is this:

Set a goal for how many times a day you are going to try to laugh, hug, hold, smile and say positive things to your child and act on it!   This may seem very stilted and forced, but sometimes we all need that structure in order to make a behavior more automatic.  See after three days if there is a difference in not only you and your children, but in the peacefulness of your household.  Can you also  do this with your spouse?  How many encouraging things do you say to him each day?  How many times do you walk by him and touch his hand or touch him on the back or give him a kiss? “

After you hit three days of trying this, I would encourage you to mark forty days on your calendar and consciously try this for 40 days. I feel it takes 40 days to affect a true behavioral change!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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24 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Emotional and Physical Warmth

  1. I’ll accept this challenge. As my children float off to sleep I often wonder how many opportunities I may have missed to really “be” with them during the day. Because of this post, I have reminders on my calender. Thank you.

  2. I have been back and forth on this issue of warmth with waldorf. But just recently, I found what a big deal it really is. I just bought a house, and our furnace is bad. It’s only October, but it is cold. My son asked to wear his wool long underwear. I made him thick wool socks (which no one sells for kids) and mittens. I bought his Soft Star Boots early, because we’re cold! When you have central heating and cooling systems, you don’t notice the cold that much, unless you are outside. A hundred years ago, they needed to dress warmly, inside and outside. Now, not so much. We take heat for granted. We never get that bone deep cold, that I can imagine people used to get in the winter. Unless it rains for five days straight and your heat is broken… In this culture, children are warmer than they’ve ever been (though maybe they are lacking emotional warmth). I get it, that it is good to be warm, I really do, but I also remember hating to be forced to wear a coat, when I didn’t want to, or we had one babysitter that forced us to wear socks to bed. I think as mothers we need to keep our children warm, but we also need to respect their autonomy to wear what they want-especially because everywhere we go, it is warm and comfortable.

  3. Carrie, I’m a new reader to your blog and have really enjoyed reading back posts. This post was timely for me, as I was contemplating just today how to keep my toddler warm at night because she kicks off covers repeatedly.

  4. oh great one – i am such a warmth boss. I am always putting beanies, coats, scarves, boots and all that on. I keep making deals wiht my boy 4. ‘until the sun is so hot on your face so are steaming – you wear your beanie’ I don’t mean to overcook him but children just don’t know if htey are hot or cold and some days it is decieving – looks like it should be warm as it is bright but actually it is freezing!
    I love the challenge. I have been trying to ‘get physical’ with my son much more lately and it does make such a difference.
    x

  5. We keep our heat very low in the winter. So it is cold here in the house unless you are bundled or by the fire. It means we get to wear slippers and sweaters to bed. I feel like having these things on is comforting. And I feel that purchasing or making them for the children is a gift I might not have if I toasted up the house. Also, it reminds me of the fuel that we are using to heat our home. And I remember to be grateful and wise in its use.

  6. Hi Carrie!

    Thanks for the post.
    Just yesterday I was on the Hanna Andersson website shopping for underwear for the kids. Organic underwear, organic undershirts, and wool socks for all 3 kids came to over $500 with taxes, duty, and shipping (I’m in Canada). I know this is stuff they need, and I’m a stickler for undershirts in the winter. My husband nearly had a heart attack though, so I stepped away from the computer and decided to think about it for a couple of days. :). I have no problem buying second-hand clothing for them, but for underwear I prefer new, and when I buy new, I prefer to buy organic. Does this seem like a reasonable amount of money to spend on underwear? I figured on 6 undershirts per kid, 6 pair of underwear each (except the baby who is still in diapers), and 4 pair of wool socks each. Also, after looking at the link you posted, should I be buying long underwear instead of regular underwear? Long-sleeved undershirts instead of tank-style? Wool instead of cotton? Now I’m glad I waited before submitting that order because maybe I should make different choices.
    Thanks!!!
    Alissa

  7. I really love the aspect of warmth!!! It’s one of the rare times that I don’t have to struggle within myself. Of course I do have to remind my kids a lot :-) Last winter I began to be extra mindful. I think after growing up in NY and then raising kids in the south there has always been a part of me that seeks the warming opportunities, missing that feeling when the cold really returns. I just really enjoy this bit for some special reason. I love planning warm meals, making our home feel cozy with slippers and blankets, making sure everyone has warm clothes, a fire in the fireplace, warm baths, hugging and snuggling my babies and my husband. It’s one of my favorites!

  8. Carrie, I wish you would address those of us who struggle with warmth on a practical level. I live in a part of the country with very cold temperatures. The customary furnace setting for houses around here is 58F (and often much lower). No one can afford to heat homes warmer than that.

    So many are struggling with the economy right now and heating is expected to reach a crisis level this winter, due to cost. We are used to wearing two pairs of wool long johns, two pairs of wool socks, huddling under blankets, but the fact is that we feel cold for most of the year. My babies’ hands are always icy, no matter how many meals of oatmeal and tea or how many hats and sweaters we layer.

    Help us meet this challenge. The Waldorf emphasis on warmth makes me feel like a fundamental failure. How do we address this struggle in climates and in economic realities that don’t allow for exorbitant indoor temperatures?

    • Oh Jane, that is challenging! Do you also use a wood stove or fireplace? Space heater as well?
      It sounds like you have plenty of layers and warming foods, so besides laying around together under blankets and telling stories and snuggling together, I guess I don’t have much to add here.
      Readers? Any help for Jane?
      Blessings,
      Carrie

  9. This is surely a post to show my husband! He continues to jokingly tell me I dress the children for the Arctic when I put on all their woolens. And they rarely complain, but I do feel that they are not as in their body as we adults can be, so on I go to dress them warmly.
    As for keeping the expenses down, repurposing old wool sweaters from second-hand stores is amazing. I just made my 2 year old daughter a cashmere vest from a $4 thrift store find. The arms can become leggings for the baby, too. Or mitten warmers.
    And for the mama who lives in a cold climate (Jane), I feel for you. This may sound simple, but I remember reading once that even the colour of your walls can help raise a body’s temperature, even slightly! So painting warming colours, like reds or yellows, may possibly contribute to a little more peace of mind?! I hope so for you.
    Thanks Carrie for the post.

  10. Jane, We too keep the heat around 58. We cant afford more than that as we have a gas furnace. Luckily, we have a fireplace and a home designed to spread that heat around. Last year we got an electric heater ( looks like a fire place) its made by cambridge. I bought the littlest one ( they are about $99). It really gets the heat out and I didnt notice an effect on my electric bill. I totally understand this $99 isnt possible for everyone ( it wasnt for us that first year). So here are some other suggestions.
    Baking bread ( oven at 500 for a couple hours)
    caulking the windows and doors ( this helped way more than I expected),
    covering windows with blankets
    ( I found the blankets very depressing, as well as closed curtains)
    sleeping all together in the warmest room
    being outdoors, not only did I not mind that it was cold outside ( since it was supposed to be) but my house felt warmer when I can in.
    And just remember that all that emotional warmth your children get warms them from with in. And all the layers and care you put into their dress is toasting their spirit.
    Much love and many blessings.

  11. I forgot to mention. We also close off part of the house, no reason to use all the rooms. I shut all the bedroom doors and essentially live on the main level. Again, all these things remind me of how comfortable we have become with being comfortable. Do I really need to heat the whole house, not really. In the coldest months I feel happy to use less of my house and use a smaller share of fuel. These are the things people used to do before central heating systems, and I make a game of seeing how and what I can do about it.

  12. Jane – I thought all the things you listed sounded like you had a really great grasp on warmth :-) The cooking stuff is huge in my mind, as is the emotional warmth! Some of the things I was thinking (because we cannot control the climate!) were:

    the use of color – painting the walls warm or even hot colors, decorating with these types of colors.

    thick, clear plastic over all the windows, not exactly beautiful but still allows light in and if it’s hung behind your curtains it may not be so noticeable.

    really warm bath where the kids get all the way dressed down to slippers in the steamy bathroom.

    I am sending warm thoughts your way!

    Apple

  13. Jane, I feel for you too.

    I grew up in a warm climate with mild winters. A couple years ago we moved to a colder area where the wind blows almost all the time. I am still getting use to sunny days but it is cold because of the cold wind.

    I don’t know much and our temperatures are not nearly as cold as what you experience but I will share with you what I have learned over the last few winters.

    I think you are doing many things already in your battle for warmth.
    What I have added is wearing scarves – even inside. For the kids I knit the ‘old fashioned’ short scarves with a slit in so the scarves stays in place and can’t get tangled around the neck.

    Our homeopath grew up in Germany and when I complained about the cold she suggested wearing wrist warmers. That is apparently something they do in Germany. I was skeptical but it does help.
    She suggested knitting little wrist warmers for the little ones to use inside as well as for sleeping.

    A Haramaki (A belly warmer). It is apparently a Japanese tradition and the main purpose for wearing it is for warmth, they believe that your kidneys are central to good health and should be kept warm.
    It is a tube of comfy fabric worn around your midsection, from lower ribcage to upper thigh. You can buy some online but to test the theory I have cut the sleeves off an old close fitting T-shirt and worn it this winter. And it does make a huge difference. They are also excellent for the little ones to sleep in. It keeps the back nice and warm even if their yammies ride up.

    What I like about the wrists warmers and the haramaki is that it isn’t adding bulk with the extra layers and warmth.

    Sending you some warm (windless) sunshine.

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  17. Hi Carrie, I do so agree about keeping warm. But my family has a history of skin allergies and my children are allergic to woollen clothing. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to wool?

    • Rachel
      Michelle at Green Mountain Organics also carries silks! We use the silk/wool blends because we live in the Deep South and doesn’t get as cold as up North.
      Hope that helps,
      Carrie

    • I live in northern UK and it is colder here. I do wish there were natural alternatives to wool. It sets off my children’s eczema..

    • Hi Rachel,
      That must be much harder since you really do need the warmth…I wonder about just plain organic cotton? I know not nearly as warm as wool, but at least it is another layer.. :)
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

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