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Noticing and Treating Soul Fever

This is the second post I have written about Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.  The first post I wrote about the deep thoughts, discussion, and changes we made after reading the first two pages.  This post is based on a bit farther into the book.  About page 50 I believe it starts talking about…

Soul Fever

Since I had to take the book back to the library, I don’t have it on hand to give references or share some of the great quotes I found, but I wanted to share with you the idea and how we are trying to use it.

Soul fever is basically when kids get emotionally ‘sick’.  He used the comparison with a physical fever because of the similarity.

Causes of Soul Fever

Physical fever come from over-activity, not enough rest, and exposure to sickness.  Soul fever can be caused from over-activity, not enough rest, and exposure to stress.  Too much stimulation and an inability to process or handle it.

What the author found was that kids in first world countries were exhibiting similar symptoms as kids who have gone through very traumatic situations (natural disasters or war) from a constant level of stress building up.  Soul fever is when this constant stress tips over the top and starts being displayed.


Just like a fever, cough, runny nose, etc for physical sickness, kids with emotional ‘flu’s’ or soul fever start displaying symptoms.  Just like each kid and germ creates different physical sicknesses, the symptoms for each kid with soul fever are different, but as a parent, we know something is up.  They can be withdrawn, or hyperactive. They can be demanding or refuse everything. They can be destructive or controlling… the list goes on.  Basically, what the author talked about is that we all have personality quirks, but it is stress that makes them really stick out.

As a parent, sometimes it is hard to put our finger on physical or emotional sickness symptoms, we just can tell something is up.


With physical sickness we put our kids to bed, cancel all activities, make them special food, cuddle and read books etc.  The treatment for soul fever needs to be the same.  Kids need to rest emotionally and heal/process.  They need to have some really quiet days with little activity, lots of attention and maybe even hot soup.

This is where our society has a disconnect.  Most parents (hopefully all parents) can tell when their kid has soul fever and is emotionally stressed beyond the processing point.  They know something is up, they can tell something is different.  But it is at this point that they either don’t know what to do, or they don’t want to slow down.  Cancelling activities and staying home from school is a requirement for kids with physical fevers, but stressed out kids can be pulled around everywhere with promises, threats, treats, or other parenting tools until they have a really serious soul ‘fever’.

This is why a simple life for kids is so important.  I do lots of things so that my kids can stay physically healthy and not get sick.  A simple bubble around my kids and their life helps guard against this kind of emotional sick.  Just like age is no barrier for physical sickness… it isn’t for soul fever either.

What I have loved about home school is that it is much easier to pull back and take a break.  Whenever either kids hits a new concept that doesn’t come easily they take breaks and go lay down for 10 or 15 minutes.  At first, I didn’t give them a choice.  It wasn’t a punishment, it was just a rest if they were struggling and we weren’t getting anywhere.  Now, they do it willingly, because they feel much better after a few minutes of quiet.

As adults we understand this.  If we are in a stressful situation we need to pull out and have a few moments of quiet alone time to process.

So on this note, Lily especially has been struggling with a new concept in math the past few weeks.  She can do it, and understands it, but it is mental exercises to get all the way through it and it has been stressful for her.  I decided to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off.  We haven’t had a day off school yet this year and the school system has had several already.  I have done a few shortened or field trip days, but this week was just off.  Nothing planned, no field trips, just sitting home doing nothing.

This was also because the book talked about the need for kids to have more unscheduled time.  Scheduled time needs to be structured for the comfort of routine, but kids need lots of unstructured time where they can just play and learn to play.  They need to learn how to play on their own and come up with their own entertainment because that is where they develop their creativity and imagination.

What happened?

Well, Lily loved it.  She read, colored, played Barbies as well as many other games she came up with on her own or played with me.

Ian, still needs some practice on this.  With nothing to do, he becomes a terror.  This is probably because he is the second child and hasn’t had much practice playing alone.  By the second and third day he was doing a bit better.  It was this week that he first chose a book (by himself) from the library, decided to read it to me (by himself) and read the whole thing (except 1 word) all by himself.  It was Dr. Seuss ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.  Easy words, but they aren’t short books.  I am so excited!  Sure, he has been reading for a few months and we have been practicing, but it was this week that he (several times) has chosen to read for fun.  He also woke up Thursday morning and over breakfast decided to count to 100 for daddy.  I was speechless.  We haven’t done numbers past about 40 with his math yet.  He went from 1-100 straight with no trouble.   Was it our quiet week that helped with these two things?  Who knows.  Might have just been timing.  Either way, taking the time off sure didn’t slow them down much.

I struggle with ‘Tiger Mom’ tendencies with my kids, especially with home school.  I believe they can do much more than the school system would dish out and it has been proven because Lily (and now Ian) are working ahead of their age.   With my learning and trying to practice more simplicity I have been bringing more and more simplicity into my kids life with home schooling as well as many other areas.  It is a balance, but I am happy with where we are going and what we are learning.


  1. Kari Kari

    That’s great Lorilee! We too have had a break from structured school–and their little minds are still working and growing and learning. S. came up to me the other day adding thing she couldn’t before. I didn’t giver her a lesson on it. She just needed time to think, play, and let it work itself out.

    And I must confess…I have the book from the library. I wanted to read it again…sorry! LOL!

    • Your the reason I needed to take it back so soon 🙂 I love it when they play and learn.

  2. Pennie Marshall Pennie Marshall

    Lorilee, I’ve just discovered your blog through the Outlook magazine. Thank you so much for sharing the journey God is taking you on. I especially resonated with todays blog about soul fever. How I wish I would have known about this when my boys were small. However, they are teenagers and I can see then suffering from this right now. I will be suggesting to each of them that they take some time out for themselves. They are going to school, working and then coming home to do homework, etc. I thoroughly enjoy the Simplicity Theme of your blog as well. I hope to incorporate some of your ideas of doing with less in our lives, too. Blessings to you as you raise your precious children.

    • Welcome! I would recommend reading Simplicity Parenting. There is less for teenagers than for the little kids, but there is still lots of info for teens. I would love to know how simplifying works with you and your boys. I only have the perspective of the young ones.

  3. I am really enjoying this book as well, thank you for the suggestion! I understand what you mean about pushing your kids, my oldest is only 3, but I feel like I need to keep on top of her learning even at this young age. She shows a lot of interest in math, so I try to encourage it. At the same time, I think that because you homeschool, you are able to have so much more time with the kids, and can really understand what their needs are. There is no dealing with disciplining 25 other kids, maybe only a couple 🙂 Once we start reporting to the state, I plan to homeschool year round so that I can take time off around the holidays. Plus, at least while mine are so young, I feel like everyday holds something new to learn, whether it is baking bread with me, or collecting rocks and making a fairy house outside. Really enjoying your posts! Sorry my comment is so long 🙂

    • Your comments are always welcome! Glad you are liking the book. I have tried the home schooling all year with longer holidays, or modified (easier) schedules at different times. They forget so much during the summer that I think it is good. I just have had trouble with the summer the last few years because of other stuff going on. And, yes, everything that they discover and do with you is learning. Using their minds and being creative. I got some good stuff on creativity coming up a week from tomorrow.

  4. Josh Marshall Josh Marshall

    I’m so often stricken with soul fever! I can so relate, even though I’m almost 20. Thank you for this post 🙂

    • Hey, thanks for coming by. Glad you liked it! I struggle with it a bunch too. The whole idea has helped me feel much better about taking off the time and pulling back just as if I was physically sick.

  5. Kendra Carlson Kendra Carlson

    your whole perspective on taking breaks and slowing down is so helpful. sometimes I feel relieved when I get physically sick b/c I feel like it’s finally appropriate to rest. it’s good to know that the same treatment is permissible (and wise) when stress is taking over. Loved your list of ways to take a break…so hard for me. I’m a chronic achiever. I’ve noticed that I THINK I feel good about myself only if I’ve accomplished something or improved something. I know it’s hard at first, but I hope i can learn to feel good when I do peace-building activities…like doing nothing. 🙂

    • I totally agree with “sometimes I feel relieved when I get physically sick b/c I feel like it’s finally appropriate to rest”. I am a ‘chronic achiever’ too. How to find balance between changing the world and enjoying the world…. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  6. Mary J Phillips Mary J Phillips

    I have just discovered your website and I could not agree more with you. I am 56 years old, and as of January I finished 22 years of homeschooling my 4 children. Two have graduated from college, the third child graduates from college in two weeks and the youngest is a freshman at a local community college. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream most of the time when my children were young. The standard joke where I live is how does a mom call her kids to dinner? “come one kids, get in the car”. I tell parents that if you teach your young children to read and do math, then they can learn anything when they are ready (and it can be different for every child. My children spent a lot time together, just playing. If your children can learn to get along with each other, then they can learn to get along with just about anybody. I considered everything in daily life part of school and part of what they needed to everything God made them to be. I had one child who was reading at 4, one that did not really read until they were 10 and two that struggled. But now as adults they all read all kinds of books and real literature. Be patient, keep pointing them in the right direction, and enjoy life. You will be amazed at the things that they have special memories of….those simple daily rituals…those simple holiday traditions…and those times of being together. Soul fever is rampant in our society, choosing to be different is worth it. My children thank me all the time for “making them weird” and enjoying life. They are all very intelligent, critical thinkers who do what they feel called to do, no matter what everybody else is doing. I can say without a doubt that it is worth it.

    • Mary J Phillips Mary J Phillips

      I am sorry for the typos, I have an iPad with a mind of its own sometimes.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. It is so encouraging hearing from the other side 🙂 We have really been slowing down in the past few months and the kids are doing much better.

  7. Milly Thiringer Milly Thiringer

    I have not read this book, but I noticed two weekends ago that my son was crying a lot more than usual, and seemed very stressed out. I felt like the right thing to do was to stay home for a couple weeks and play rather than continue with our scheduled (out of the house) activities. He seems much better now. Thank you for affirming what I knew in my heart!

  8. Hi Lorilee. Great post. There’s so much to this. I’m an adult with what we think are “burned out adrenals” and it’s pretty much from stressing out my body. We’re hoping to keep our kids from going down the same road.

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