Imagine if instead of writing a prescription for antidepressants, parents were advised by their kid’s doctor to have them spend more time in nature.
I recently visited a Wilderness Therapy Program on the big island of Hawaii for teenagers. What I learned was that in removing processed foods and sugar from their diet, changing the adolescent’s patterns of sleep to match the rhythm of the sun, and having them drink adequate amounts of water as well as get daily exercise outdoors working in a vegetable garden, in just a few short weeks the facilitators were able to diminish these young folk’s needs for medication.
“Nature deficiency disorder” has been proposed as a term for the problems created when we lose contact with the natural world. Throughout our evolutionary history our ancestors lived in an intimate relationship with the earth, and its influence was quite healthful.
Is staying up late at night to finish homework, and/or interact with their technology disrupting your teen’s natural body rhythm? Is processed food, and a lack of exercise and sleep, contributing to physical imbalances in your adolescent’s system resulting in a less than happy child? Has depression become a by-product of a society where young people have become disconnected from nature and their body’s wisdom?
Actions Parents Can Take to Prevent “Nature Deficit Disorder”
1. Demonstrate your own curiosity about nature and what you love to do outdoors.
2. Plan a monthly or weekly surprise outdoor adventure.
3. Organize a monthly outing with your child’s school.
4. Take a daily or weekly walk after dinner as a family.
5. Limit technology exposure to a couple hours per day.
6. Register your child in an outdoor summer camp.
7. Take your family camping.
8. Plant a vegetable garden together and harvest it to eat.
9. Enhance your experience of nature by utilizing a field guide.
10. Link up with local or national organizations such as:
Children and Nature Network http://www.childrenandnature.org/
Boy Scouts http://www.scouting.org/
Girl Scouts https://www.girlscouts.org/
David Suzuki Foundation http://www.davidsuzuki.org/
National Wildlife Foundation http://www.nwf.org/
Outward Bound http://www.outwardbound.org/
Wildlife Conservation Society http://www.wcs.org/
Earth Explore Adventures http://www.earthexplore.com/
National Audubon Society http://www.audubon.org/
National Geographic Geography Action http://education.nationalgeographic.com/
Sierra Club http://www.sierraclub.org/
**Worried about your teen? Schedule a free parent consultation.
Los Angeles Teen Therapist: Taking the Trouble out of the Teen Years