Children’s Ailments

For someone whose only child was taken into care in 1851 (or raised by others, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe), Ms. Eddy has quite a few things to say about the raising of children, and the best way to handle their ailments.

My favorite piece of child-handling precedent comes from S&H 154:16-155:2

If a child is exposed to contagion or infection, the mother is frightened and says, “My child will be sick.” The law of mortal mind and her own fears govern her child more than the child’s mind governs itself, and they produce the very results which might have been prevented through the opposite understanding. Then it is believed that exposure to the contagion wrought the mischief.

That mother is not a Christian Scientist, and her affections need better guidance, who says to her child: “You look sick,” “You look tired,” “You need rest,” or “You need medicine.”

Such a mother runs to her little one, who thinks she has hurt her face by falling on the carpet, and says, moaning more childishly than her child, “Mamma knows you are hurt.” The better and more successful method for any mother to adopt is to say: “Oh, never mind! You’re not hurt, so don’t think you are.” Presently the child forgets all about the accident, and is at play.

Children do pick up on their parents fears, tiredness, frustration, and annoyance. If the parent is upset, then it is harder for the child to settle. Parents do not need to voice their fears within the hearing range of children, children don’t need to hear about the latest flu epidemic, or shootings. They need to be children, to play, to learn, and to grow. They will have plenty of time to worry about grown-up issues when they are grown-ups.

Rest and downtime is important for young children (and their parents). Young children need guidance, and being guided to some quiet, restful time, can be helpful. Informing someone they “look sick” is never helpful, but gently granting permission to rest or sit quietly can provide a welcome break for an overwhelmed child.

Instead of running to the kid who has just face-smashed into the rug, wait a few moments to assess the situation, the kid will most likely get up and laugh it off, but in the event they don’t telling them “Oh, never mind! You’re not hurt, so don’t think you are” is not helpful. Acknowledging that a rug-burned nose might be a bit tender is hardly the end of the world, and is best followed by some gentle redirection, “lets go color” or “how about we read a book?”

If a parent starts from the basis of “Oh, never mind! You’re not hurt, so don’t think you are” regardless of the severity of the incident the child is likely to grow resentful. A lightly rug-burned nose is one thing, falling off a bicycle and scraping all the skin off your elbows is another, and spraining an ankle to the point you can walk on it is yet a different issue entirely.

When one is informed that their “pain is not real” when they are unable to function is both unhelpful and hurtful. People feel pain for a reason, often is is because something is wrong and they need to make changes. Being taught to ignore pain (because it is “not real”) can have life-threatening consequences – if the pain is severe/persistent/long-lasting by all means, get the situation addressed! But once it is addressed, try not dwell on the pain and find activities that help take their mind off it (that includes, but is by no means limited to, responsibly taking pain medication if necessary).

As a child, there is something comforting about being helped up (or gently redirected) after you have fallen. The idea that a mother is “better and more successful” for discounting her child’s physical and emotional with a brusque “you’re not hurt” needs in the name of “Divine Science” is unscientific and cruel.