Back to Basics ~Nature Therapy


Last weekend I took my 7-year-old daughter on a weekend camping trip in the mountains. Up until then, we had only “camped” in our backyard ~ pitching our tent, cuddling up in our sleeping bags and watching a movie on the portable DVD player as we fell asleep to the neighborhood sounds of traffic, airplanes and people mingling in their own backyards.

I had been hesitant to take my daughter on a “real” camping trip because I was worried that she would be too freaked out to sleep in a tent in the wilderness, struggle with not having immediate access to a bathroom and just feel generally displaced and anxious. So, I avoided the prospect of mountain camping… until this summer.

Something changed in me. I suppose part of it is the fact that my daughter seems old enough now to really understand what it means to go camping. For-real camping, out in the wilderness. She seemed excited by the idea, so we planned our trip and I educated her about the necessary gear we would need to take with us.

Something else changed in me too, though. My decision to plan this camping trip stemmed from a genuine need to reconnect with nature and disengage from “modern society.” I was noticing how the ins and outs of my daily life in an overpopulated suburban sprawl were taking a serious toll on me. I needed a break.

So we packed up the car and headed out. We did take along modern conveniences and indulgences like a cooking stove, marshmallows and camping chairs. I wanted to give my daughter a fun impression of camping, not just force her to learn about roughing it and nature survival skills.

What I found when we arrived at our campsite, however, was that my daughter was far more interested in learning about survival skills as opposed to the novelties of modern camping. She wanted me to show her how to build and start a fire. She wanted to learn the proper way to store food so bears would not wander into our campsite at night. She wanted to discuss the change in environment around us, the weather, the local wildlife and our relationship to the earth.

After our tent was pitched and we had all of our gear organized, my daughter spent about four hours simply wandering around the campground (within sight), gathering objects from nature, creating rock, stick, pine cone and acorn designs and sculptures and drawing patterns in the dirt with a stick. Watching her engage in this type of play filled my heart with so much gratitude and beauty. She also discovered that the tree trunks smelled like maple syrup! So we walked around to every tree in the vicinity and sniffed the trunks. It was such a therapeutic experience.


When we were packing for our trip, I had considered bringing along our portable DVD player, my daughter’s Leap Pad and other activities like workbooks, games, etc. I decided at the last minute to leave all of these things behind. I am so glad I made this decision. Why did I think that my daughter would need technological stimulation while surrounded by nature? Why was I afraid that she would feel too far removed from her “normal” life without a movie to watch, a computerized game to play, or a workbook to occupy her time?

This experience helped me realize how incredibly conditioned we have become to our technological and educational stimuli. We have become so engrossed in the modern society that surrounds us that I actually thought my daughter would need or miss having a “device” at her immediate disposal. How wrong I was. And how thankful I am that I was, indeed, wrong.

We roasted marshmallows and made s’mores both nights of our camping adventure. My daughter mastered the skill of roasting the perfect marshmallow and wanted to keep roasting them all evening – not to eat them, but for the simple pleasure of practicing a basic skill and getting better at it with each new attempt.


When we departed on our weekend trip, part of me thought that I was not going to want to come back. And I was right, I didn’t want to come back. But… I am a mom to two young girls. I am a partner to a wonderful, caring husband. I have a role to fulfill in the society where we live, even though it eats away at parts of my soul every day. It is my responsibility to find ways to refuel the aspects of my soul that are eaten away by the environment in which I live… at least until we can make a change for the better regarding our living situation.

What I want to share now – more than anything – is how this camping experience solidified in me the belief that children need nature. They need a connection to the natural world. They need time to just BE and to interact at will with a natural environment free from the influence of human civilization. As parents and teachers, we must protect our children’s experience of human life by reserving time and space for them in which they can roam freely, be immersed in the outdoors and not have to follow an agenda. Helping our kids create and develop a bond with the natural world is paramount to a healthy and holistic upbringing. And, it is also vital to our own well-being as caregivers. Let’s get outside, let’s forget about our hectic schedules, let’s allow our children and ourselves to reconnect with our source – as often as we  possible can.




Elemental Relating: A Unique & Holistic Approach to Understanding Children


When it comes to understanding children – whether our own or anyone else’s – there are myriad ways to attempt to relate to them. Some individuals take the route of establishing an authoritarian disposition towards children, hoping to keep them “in their place,” while others may adopt the attitude of being a child’s friend and try to mimic childlike behavior.

Throughout my years of working with young children and ever since having children of my own, I have tried on many roles in my way of relating to children. Some of my experimental roles have succeeded while others have failed. For example, whenever I find that I am trying too hard to make a child behave in a specific way or putting too much emphasis on encouraging a child to do something that I want him or her to do, I eventually stop in my tracks to reevaluate the situation. When it comes to relating to kids, my insight is that if you find yourself trying to force something to happen, it is most likely not in anyone’s best interest to see the circumstances through to the end. Even if you “win” the argument and the child eventually succumbs to your authoritative force, there is no genuine learning taking place for anyone.

I have also found that my efforts to solely befriend children and hope for them to behave in a harmonious way lead to discord and frustration… for the adult and the children. Children actually thrive in an environment with established boundaries and understood expectations. So, as their role models, adults really do need to work consistently to help children understand what behaviors are acceptable and which are cause for redirection or discipline.

With all this being said, I’d like to share a particular approach to relating to children that I have developed and adopted over the years. I call it Elemental Relating.

The Four Basic Elements

If you are familiar with the Nickelodeon series ‘Avatar’ — not the blue people film directed by John Cameron — but the animated series in which the Avatar is a young boy who must master the four elements of air, water, earth and fire in order to save the world from destruction, then you will know exactly what I am referring to when I explain this concept of relating to children through the elements.


Each of the four elements embody unique properties that, when harnessed or embraced by an individual, have the ability to affect one’s inner self as well as one’s surroundings. Here is a brief description of each element and what it represents:

  • Air ~ Air is a light and active element. Movement, freshness, inspiration, imagination, communication, intelligence, dreams, wishes and ideas are all aspects of the Air element.
  • Water ~ Water is a fluid element that can change in form. It can be useful but also extremely unpredictable. Emotions, artistic expression, healing, philosophy, acceptance, contemplation, creation, movement, change, freedom and independence are all aspects of the Water element.
  • Earth ~ Earth is the foundation for all of the elements. It is the center of all things. Stability, wisdom, knowledge, strength, growth, prosperity and fertility are all aspects of the Earth element.
  • Fire ~ Fire is a volatile element that – unlike the other three elements – does not exist in a natural state. It must consume other elements and materials in order to exist. Transformation, creativity, destruction, motivation, will power, drive, sensuality, authority and leadership are all aspects of the Fire element.

Astrological Influences

With a basic understanding of these four elements, it is possible to assess a child and his/her behaviors from an elemental perspective. Utilizing the method of Elemental Relating can be supported by also possessing a basic understanding of how these four elements relate to the twelve astrological, or zodiac, signs. I will not go into great detail on the zodiac signs here, as that is research every reader can conduct specific to his/her own children. What I do want to emphasize, however, is that each sign of the zodiac corresponds to one of the four elements. Here is how the twelve zodiac signs are organized according to the elements:

  • Air Signs ~ Aquarius, Gemini & Libra           zodiac
  • Water Signs ~ Pisces, Cancer & Scorpio
  • Earth Signs ~ Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn
  • Fire Signs ~ Aries, Leo & Sagittarius

Now, keep in mind that people – children and adults alike – cannot be categorized and assessed simply by identifying their main astrological sign. A more comprehensive examination of someone’s astrological chart will give you better insight into their complete astrological composition (based on birth date, birth time and birth place).

What I like to do is to determine someone’s three most prominent signs: Sun sign, Rising sign and Moon sign. This triad of astrological information can really give you a strong basis for understanding a child’s personality and how he or she relates to the world and to others.

The reason I share this information about astrological signs is that – when you utilize the elemental relating model – it can be extremely beneficial to understand a child from where he or she is “coming from” based on the child’s inherent elemental influences.

For example… my oldest daughter, who was born in August under the Leo sign, is astrologically ruled by the Sun. So her personality is strongly influenced by the element of Fire. When I looked deeper into her chart, however, I discovered that her Rising sign is Scorpio, which is a Water sign. And I also found that her Moon sign is in Aries, which is a Fire sign like Leo. Having this information has helped me determine how my daughter’s Fire and Water elemental influences affect her character and development.

If you are interested in learning more about astrological charts, you can visit to enter specific information and receive a free outline and description of someone’s astrological composition. Gathering this information will assist you in developing your own use of the Elemental Relating model.

Using Elemental Relating with Children

It is helpful to also have an understanding of your own elemental and astrological composition when using Elemental Relating. When two people are in relation to one another, being well-informed about each individual’s influences supports you in discerning how the elements can be manipulated to shift a situation.

Nonetheless, you can also utilize Elemental Relating without obtaining any specific astrological data about yourself or your child. Using this model to relate to children can be based purely on energetic perception and sussing out the feeling of every unique situation you encounter. Let me provide some examples:

All four elements encouraging cooperation

The Scenario

You and your child are getting ready to leave the house and you have a time restriction. You know that your child is easily distracted and struggles with following verbal instruction. Your child tends to daydream and get deeply involved in whatever he or she is doing in the moment. It is difficult for your child to stop an activity to prepare to leave the house. As a result, you become frazzled and rushed when trying to get out the door with your child.

Stop to Feel and Analyze

When you catch yourself in a situation like the one described above, the best thing to do is stop, notice the feelings that are occurring around you, analyze these feelings by recognizing what elements are at work and then determine a course of action (or non-action) from there.

You feel stressed, perhaps agitated. This is the Fire element coursing through your energetic field. Your child shows no outward signs of hearing your request to hurry up and get ready to leave the house. Perhaps your child is immersed in the element of Air — caught up in an imaginative, engaging play world of his or her own.

By stopping and recognizing these two elements at work in the scenario, you can then apply the principles of the other two elements to help diffuse the struggle and work out a more successful plan of action.

Counter-act the Imbalance of Elemental Influence

The Fire aspects that you may notice pulsing through you in the above scenario can be calmed and redirected with your conscious effort to draw more Water element energy into your sense of being. Even if you are running late, go to the kitchen or bathroom sink, hold your hands and forearms under running water, or fill the sink with some water and immerse your hands under the water’s calming presence. Seriously. This can actually help! Drink a glass of water, evoking your body’s own water stores to rise and help diffuse the Fire element in you that is creating stress. Set your thoughts and actions on a calmer, more healing, intuitive course to get through the process of helping your child leave the house.

Approach your child with this Water element energy. Rushing at your child with the intensity of a Fire-based intent will only create more discord, as air fuels fire and fire feeds off of air. Offer your child an Earth element alternative in order to see more cooperative behavior emerge. Do physical, concrete things to inspire your child’s actions. Pick your child up in a loving, nurturing, positive way. Grab his or her shoes and put them on for the child (even if he or she is capable of doing it themselves). Motivate your child to cooperate by expressing what will happen in the real, physical world once you get out the door and are on your way.

I want to emphasize here that being immersed in the element of Air is not necessarily a bad thing. And adopting a Fire element approach to some situations will be useful and appropriate at times. It is all about recognizing what elements are at work in a difficult situation, how these elements are creating disharmony for the parties involved, and then figuring out how to counter-act the situation with different elements in order to bring about the desired result.



It’s all about balance. Elemental influences are continuously shifting all around us and inside of us. Notice what elements are working in you and in your child to determine the best course of approach in any given situation.


An Uncomfortable Influx of One Element

The Scenario

You know your child possesses a strong Water element influence based on his or her energy or astrological make-up. Your child’s heavy Water influence makes him or her a highly sensitive, creative individual. Sometimes, because of your child’s increased level of sensitivity, he or she will become extremely emotional and dramatic about something that does not seem like a big deal to you. For example, your child sulks and cries for more than 20 minutes because you told him that it is too hot to play outside… even though you offered to set up an equally fun indoor activity. You want to honor your child’s feelings but, come on… sometimes enough is enough, right?

Stop to Feel and Analyze

In this particular example, perhaps your own elemental influences aren’t affecting things directly. Your approach to reacting to your child, however, can be taken into consideration and you can adopt an elemental relation to your child’s overly influenced Water aspect.

Counter-act the Imbalance of Elemental Influence

Upon initial thought, one might deduce that approaching your child with a strong Fire element could potentially counter-act the over indulgence of Water influence your child is displaying. With further contemplation, however, manipulating the situation with the intensity of the Fire principles may not go over very well with a highly sensitive child.

Why not look to the Air element to help bring about cooperation in this specific situation? Approaching your child with a light, playful, inspiring, motivational attitude may be just what he or she needs to evaporate some of the excessive Water element.

Again, I am in no way suggesting that possessing a strong Water element influence is a negative thing. However, having too much of anything becomes cumbersome to anyone at a certain point. So helping your child to balance his or her elemental influence can arouse positive responsiveness in a challenging situation.


Make Elemental Relating Work for YOU

The key to making this model of relating to children work for you is to keep a continuously open perspective and to develop a thorough understanding of each basic element and how it can potentially affect a situation. As I mentioned earlier, it can also benefit you to conduct your own research on which elements you are most influenced by and why, as well as which elements are most prevalent in your child’s character and why.

There is not one “right” way to utilize Elemental Relating. That is what makes it such a versatile, fascinating and adaptable way to look at any given situation. By turning our focus to the four basic elements and doing our best to understand how they are at work within us, within our children and within our surroundings, we can devise infinite approaches to conflict resolution.

If anyone gives this model a try and discovers an approach that works for them, please share your findings and insight! We can all learn from each other’s trial-and-error efforts. Remember that the elements are not necessarily fixed in any individual or environment. Every situation is unique, requiring openness and new perspectives!