Despite the vastly increased availability of health information in America today, many measures of the health of our children and families are at an all-time low. Concerned by the threats to their children's health, caring parents are confused by conflicting advice. They need to know where and how to find help in raising highly healthy children.
The author of the best-selling 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People now turns his medical expertise to the needs of children and the people who care for them. With his genuine, compassionate, and arm-around-the-shoulder approach, Dr. Walt Larimore helps make medical information understandable and accessible to parents and caregivers. Through the prism of a Christian worldview, he shows readers the connection between physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health.
The Highly Healthy Child, recommended by Focus on the Family and endorsed by the Christian Medical Association, counsels parents to:
• Be proactive in preventing physical disease
• Build your child's healthcare team
• Ensure proper nutrition
• Provide adequate protection
• Nurture family relationships
• Grow into the larger community
• Instill a balanced self-concept
• Establish a spiritual foundation
• Engage in suitable activities
• Cultivate growth and maturity
Author Biography: Walter L. Larimore, M.D. is vice president of medical outreach at Focus on the Family and the best-selling coauthor of Going Public with Your Faith, and author of 10Highly Healthy People, and Why A.D.H.D. Doesn't Mean Disaster. He cohosts the nationally syndicated Focus on Your Family's Health on radio and TV, and has been named in the Best Doctors in America and Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Barb.
Stephen and Amanda Sorenson oversee Sorenson Communications, based in Black Forest, Colorado.
Stephen and Amanda Sorenson oversee Sorenson Communications, based in Black Forest, Colorado.
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.22(w) x 9.38(h) x 1.12(d)|
|Age Range:||16 Years|
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The Highly Healthy Child Copyright © 2004 by Walt Larimore
Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Larimore, Walter L. The highly healthy child / Walt Larimore, with Stephen and Amanda Sorenson - 1st. Ed. P. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-310-24029-8 1. Children - Health and hygiene 2. Children - Diseases - Prevention. 3. Child development. I. Sorenson, Stephen II. Sorenson, Amanda, 1953- III. Title. RJ101 .L37 2004 649.1 - dc22 2003022630
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What Is a Highly Healthy Child?
Eight-year-old Daryl was a very impressive young boy. I don't think I've ever met a person with a more positive mind-set. His attitude was always upbeat, his laugh infectious. I wish you could have seen his smile. It could light up even the darkest room. Daryl was loved by his family and had a deep faith in God. In short, he was incredibly healthy emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. He was more highly healthy than most of my patients, and more healthy than most people I had met.
Daryl's overall health was all the more impressive because of where I met him. He was visiting "Give Kids the World," a very special village near Disney World where dying children and their families can escape the world of hospitals and medical treatments and enjoy a week of being lavished with hugs, smiles, and entertainment by their favorite Disney characters. Although Daryl was as bald as a cucumber and skin and bones from end-stage cancer, he was living life to the fullest. He greatly expanded my understanding of health. He demonstrated to me what it means to be healthy - not just disease- and symptom free - but whole in the most important ways.
Having interacted with Daryl, I knew I needed to get to know his parents. Young children are so influenced by their parents that whenever I meet children who are as impressive as Daryl (or who are negatively impressive), I want to know more about their parents and home setting. Mark and Sue were indeed remarkable people. I was blessed to be able to spend a little time with them.
Mark and Sue worked to keep their marriage healthy, and they considered the job of raising highly healthy children to be the most important one on earth. They knew their children's health wasn't the responsibility of doctors or schools, churches or coaches, the YMCA or Scouting groups. Of course these people and groups could help, but Mark and Sue knew that the personal investment they made in their children was crucial. Although their son was withering physically and would live no longer than a few months, they had truly done their job well.
WHAT IS HEALTH?
Initially, because I was trained in conventional medicine, I emphasized the physical side of health, especially the treatment of trauma and disease. If my patients were free from injury and disease, I considered them to be healthy. But the longer I practiced medicine and the more I encountered individuals like Daryl, the more I realized there's more to being highly healthy than having a physically functioning body. So what's the relationship between physical well-being and true health? I explored this in my book 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People, and I want to summarize these ideas because they are crucial to our understanding of children's health.
Many modern-day writers and physicians have wrestled with the meaning of health and how to achieve it. Like the ancient clergy, physicians, and philosophers, virtually no one equates health with physical health alone. Even the word health comes from Old English words meaning "whole." So the definition of health is intended to include those things that "make a person whole."
What does it mean to "be whole"? What, other than physical well-being, constitutes health?
The more I asked this question, the more intrigued I became. I searched for an answer by informally surveying health care experts and physicians in various countries and asking, "What is health?" and "What are the essentials of health?" I then searched medical literature from around the world, reviewed many studies and medical reports (some of which I'll refer to later), and focused intently on the subjects of wellness and longevity. The more I read, the more excited I became. All the evidence suggests that there is a powerful connection between a child's physical body and his or her emotional, relational, and spiritual well-being.
Dose of Wisdom
When the physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions of well-being are singing in harmony, you're healthy. That doesn't mean there is no room for a dissonant chord, but that the music of life is pleasant to the ear. Nick Zervanos, M.D., family physician
Dr. Nick Zervanos, a family physician who has taught residents and medical students for more than thirty years, came closest to expressing my belief about health when he said, "True health involves our entire beings. The physical, mental, and spiritual elements must all be functioning as God designed them to function if we are to be truly healthy. The physical may actually be the most unimportant of the three, because with good mental and spiritual health we can still be content, even though our bodies may be unhealthy."1
His definition is exactly what intrigued me about little Daryl. The music of Daryl's life was music to my ears. If you are uncertain about the spiritual aspect and are thinking, Isn't my child's physical health enough? please consider this: If our children are to be highly healthy, we have to think way beyond their bodies and emotions. We need to look beyond their family and social relationships. We need to look at their spiritual health.
Spirituality plays a key role in our health and dramatically affects the health of our children, so I propose that in addition to looking at the highlights of important medical studies, historical medical wisdom, and current medical advice, we look at a book filled with timeless principles - principles that can be applied to people of all ages, in any culture, and at any time. They can help us understand and apply the essentials we need in order to become highly healthy. This book, known throughout the world as "The Good Book," is the Bible. As surprising as it may seem, the Bible's age-old, time-proven principles of health are supported by an impressive amount of scientific research, and I'm eager to share some of these principles with you.
THE BIBLE'S PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTH
Although the Bible appears to say little about health in strictly medical terms, it reveals important principles about health. First and foremost, it views health as a state of completeness and wholeness. It gives us clues as to what constitutes a high degree of health, for us as parents and for our children.
In his book The Bible and Healing, John Wilkinson, a British physician and biblical scholar, wrote, "Human wholeness or health is the main topic of the Bible. . . . It is only when human beings are whole and their relationships right, that they can be described as truly healthy."2 Even the language and stories of the Bible reflect this perspective.
You may be familiar with the Hebrew word shalom, for example. It is found 338 times in the Bible3 and expresses the concept of health as it was viewed during pre-Christian times. Although shalom sometimes expresses "peace," its root meaning is that of wholeness, completeness, and general wellbeing. It conveys more than physical and emotional well-being, however. Shalom conveys a strong emphasis on relational and spiritual well-being - especially concerning one's relationship with God.
The Bible teaches that true shalom comes from God: "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace [shalom]."4 Thus the Bible seems to indicate that all people, including children, cannot be highly healthy physically, emotionally, or relationally unless they are also healthy spiritually. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that the principles taught within it are so crucial to our well-being that we parents are to teach them to our children on a daily basis.5 Various people in the Bible also recognized and described the connections between spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical health. King Solomon, purported to be one of the wisest men in all of human history, noted, "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones."6 Solomon's father, King David, poignantly described how guilt over wrongdoing affected his physical, spiritual, and emotional health. After committing adultery and murder, he wrote, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer."� The apostle John linked our overall well-being to our spiritual vitality: "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."8
I hope it's becoming clear that the well-being of highly healthy children depends on their inner life as well as their physical health. God wants to nourish and promote a healthy emotional and spiritual life because without it, our children simply will be less healthy than God designed them to be (Proverbs 17:22; Matthew 5:3-12; 6:33; 16:26; Luke 6:20-26; and 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 are just a few Bible passages that support this statement).
Does this timeless biblical view really matter in the twenty-first century? I believe it does. Many children I cared for in my practice were healthy physically, yet were involved with parents or families whose relational, emotional, and spiritual lives were disasters. These families were simply unable to grasp what it meant to be highly healthy, and the consequences to their children were devastating. In contrast, I've also cared for children who have suffered trauma and disease that resulted in chronic disability, pain, or fatigue. Yet, although these children suffered daily in ways most of us could not begin to imagine, they have become highly healthy individuals.
One such child is Jill, who had a lot to overcome. She had cerebral palsy, which made it difficult for her to communicate, made it impossible for her to feed herself, and required her to be in a wheelchair. Although Jill's father abandoned the family while she was still very young, Jill's mom did everything possible to nurture all aspects of her daughter's health.
Jill's mom made sure that Jill had male role models in her life and that she was involved with other children, despite the painful teasing she sometimes had to endure. (Jill once lost motorized wheelchair privileges for a week at school because she intentionally ran into and injured a boy who had teased her. The punishment worked well, however. The boy was required to push her manual wheelchair for the week, and they ended up becoming good friends.)
The last time I saw Jill, she was in her late teens. She was a delightful young woman who had many friends and was highly healthy - despite her devastating physical problems. The level of health she exhibits doesn't happen by accident. It's a result of loving, committed, deliberate parenting that is focused on all aspects of health. Let's turn now to explore what I call the "four wheels of health" and discover why each is so important in helping children achieve the highest possible degree of health.
UNDERSTANDING THE FOUR WHEELS OF HEALTH
In order to understand how to nurture our children's health, we need to understand a concept taught to me by Harold, who lived in a small cabin on a hill above the Nantahala River near Bryson City, North Carolina. Harold's true joy in life was refurbishing Model T Fords. To him, they were works of art. When I expressed an interest in learning more about these old cars, Harold invited me to his shop, where I gained a greater appreciation for his hobby.
Harold labored over body repairs and reupholstering seats, but he specialized in repairing wheels. He showed me how a weakness in just one or two spokes could cause a multispoked wheel to collapse and, potentially, cause a wreck. He explained that if a driver wanted a long, smooth ride, the wheels needed to be as perfectly balanced as possible. An imbalance in even one wheel could put a strain on the engine, chassis, and other wheels. In short, it could goof up the whole car.
I began to think about the components of health in the way Harold viewed the components of a sturdy wheel: four wheels attached to a stable car (the four health "wheels" of a highly healthy person), with all wheels in balance (all aspects of a highly healthy child developed in balance). The four "wheels" of highly healthy children are
• physical health - the well-being of a child's body;
• emotional health - the well-being of a child's mental faculties and connection with his or her emotions;
• relational health - the well-being of a child's associations with parents, family members, friends, and community; and
• spiritual health - the well-being of a child's relationship with God9
These four components of health were critical in the life of Jesus, even during childhood. According to the Bible, Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."10 In other words, he grew mentally/emotionally, physically, spiritually, and relationally.
Parents who want to raise highly healthy children will work hard to keep the wheels of their health and those of their children in balance. So let's consider the effect of each of the four wheels of health and explore the essential principles you can begin implementing to nurture a highly healthy child.