Treating children has always been a challenge for the homeopath. Very young children cannot speak for themselves; that in itself makes it impossible to take a written case of the complaints on a one-to-one basis.
Thus, we must depend on the mother, father or principal caretaker to describe the symptoms. Many times, however, the mother and the father do not agree when describing the symptoms of a child, making the situation even more complex for us. One parent says one thing about the child and the other disagrees, making it an interesting interview, but far from setting the stage for what we need: mental, emotional and general symptoms. So, it is up to us to make use of what we can observe, what the parents or caretakers observe, and to appraise and evaluate the behavior and the history of the child given by the parents. This is a huge task and a more complex means of evaluating a case, than with adults.
In the Organon, we find many wonderful ways to take a case. Even if Hahnemann says he only proposes “general instructions”, the truth is that he gives us many ways to approach a case. One of the most important things he mentions, that helps us especially with children, is to be unbiased, non-judgmental and non-critical in our observation and interaction. Especially in the case of small children, we need to be able to relate to them too, not only the parents. Observation is usually correct if we are unbiased and calm, observing carefully, with complete knowledge of repertory and homeopathic symptoms. Carefully observe as children play, sit, and especially how they interact with their parents. Many times behaviors occur that are different from those related by the parents. One must keep one eye on the child, with the other eye taking note of what the parents say and do. We must be alert for everything that transpires from the moment we meet the family.
In infants, we find that if we have previously treated the parents and siblings for a chronic disease, diagnosis is relatively easier. Children will always follow the same hereditary and educational line as the parents—some might refer to it as the miasmatic tendency. Infants exhibit similar traits and tend to require similar constitutional remedies as their parents. Therefore, our interview must involve the parents’ history, especially the mother during pregnancy, labor and the birth of the child. This helps us to recognize or confirm whether there exists a basic set of emotions, expressed repeatedly, that can help us choose our remedy.
It all begins as a story, a story from conception of the child, or even before that if you have the time–a story of the emotional and physical symptoms of the mother, and the father also, if present. We should be able to find at least one or two ruling emotions in the story. These can be found in the symptoms of the child, even if he or she is an infant. It is easier if the child is older, and even if he cannot speak yet, the ruling family emotions should be there in the constitutional picture.
If we see an anxious and overprotective mother, we can explore how she expresses this in a homeopathic way. We can translate this into the emotional expressions of the child. Go down this path, and you will find anxiety in the child expressed in fears, clinging, being startled, etc. Weeping is an interesting symptom that can also be seen in children. Here, the type of weeping helps a lot in diagnosing the case–moaning-groaning, soft or irritable crying all express different underlying emotions.
In newborn infants, the story revolves around the way they eat, sleep and their evacuations. How long do they feed, are they restless, sleepy, slow or demanding? Ask the parents, after they tell their story, to relate how they live with the baby’s habits for 24 hours; something always shines through that is helpful for our homeopathic case.
Note should be taken of the child’s age. We must have knowledge of the different stages of growth that are normal in children in certain periods; if not, confusion can arise. Noting growth periods also helps us to concentrate our interview on what is possible to explore in the age group.
The homeopathic interview must be tailored to the needs of the child patient. The interview varies depending upon the age of the child we are treating. We must use basic homeopathic guidelines for each age group. Since children change quickly, our interview must be creative and focused on what is to be cured at the time, keeping in mind what is common and uncommon to the age group, the parents’ history and the ruling emotions of their family. We add to this information our own observations and corroboration of symptoms.
Setting guidelines for each age group we treat is the most important factor in diagnosing children. If you can do this, what follows when interviewing youngsters, will be not only satisfying professionally but also, very enjoyable.