Just one month ago this week, I began writing this post about a two-month-old article I came across that was written by Victoria Prooday, an internationally-known educator, motivational speaker, registered Occupational Therapist, and founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic. It speaks to a silent tragedy that is affecting our very own children all around the globe! It interested me because I remain deeply concerned about our children and the futures and legacies being left for their generations to come; i.e., what we are teaching them and what healthy and helpful lessons are we leaving behind. Are we truly building time-honored and loving relationships, generously sharing our wisdom, experiences, special stories, and the family histories and traditions that generations before us created to help make our lives easier, happier, emotionally and physically healthier as members of their families and communities so they can prosper? Ironically, life rudely interrupted my daily, somewhat uninspiring routine, and thrust me head first into this thicket of young people’s realities in the twenty-first century. I guess the lesson for me was to experience up close and first-hand their daily routines, struggles, stresses, and yes, even some small successes along the way.
Even as I write today, I remain in this thicket of underbrush. I consider myself a woman of the world, well-read and wise on so many topics. Yet, I find I have been so un-under informed about this century’s daily and toxic demons that lay in wait to consume our children’s lives. These amusing babysitting gadgets and high-tech “social media” lifestyles rob them of this world’s simple everyday joys that are around them and cheat them out of warm and loving connected family dynamics where they could share mutual trust, love, support, and respect for one another. And when did this all start? Was it World-War-II’s silent generation, the baby-boomer generation, the women’s rights movement? Regardless of when or why this estrangement from family unity and the lure of “anti-social” high-tech instant gratification, I agree with Victoria’s findings that the impact of modern-day parenting and high-tech lifestyle’s on our children’s nervous systems is a tragedy on life and society. In fact, in the short two months, since Victoria released her article (that follows), 10 million people have already read it and the numbers of readers keep growing. Every parent who cares about the future of his/her children and wants to keep informed on this subject will want to read it and weigh its message and tools for themselves. Victoria says if you follow her recommendations at the end, you will see positive changes in your child’s life and be further proof that the problem she describes is real and should be close to all parents’ hearts. Please take a read.
“The silent tragedy affecting today’s children . . .”
There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children. Through my work with hundreds of children and families as an occupational therapist, I have witnessed this tragedy unfolding right in front of my eyes. Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:
- 1 in 5 children has mental health problems
- 43% increase in ADHD
- 37% increase in teen depression
- 200% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old
How much more evidence do we need before we wake up?
No, “increased diagnostics alone” is not the answer!
No, “they all are just born like this” is not the answer!
No, “it is all the school system’s fault” is not the answer!
Yes, as painful as it can be to admit, in many cases, WE, parents, are the answer to many of our kids’ struggles!
It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment. Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.
Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parents’ best efforts to provide them with a well-balanced environment and parenting, their children continue to struggle. These are NOT the children I am talking about here.
I am talking about many others whose challenges are greatly shaped by the environmental factors that parents, with their greatest intentions, provide to their children. As I have seen in my practice, the moment parents change their perspective on parenting, these children change.
What is Wrong?
Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:
- Emotionally available parents
- Clearly defined limits and guidance
- Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
- Movement and outdoors
- Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom
Instead, children are being served with:
- Digitally distracted parents
- Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
- Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
- Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
- Sedentary indoor lifestyle
- Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments
Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being.
How to fix it?
If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:
Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend
Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.
- Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
- Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
- Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
- Play one board game a day. (List of family games)
- Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
- Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom
Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:
- Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.
Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:
- Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
- Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
- Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
- Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.
Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:
- Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
- Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
- Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
- Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.
We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be…