Today’s children are in a devastating emotional state. Many are tired, fidgety, bored, impulsive, inattentive, anxious, and angry. Parents and teachers struggle to manage kids’ behaviors.
Because kids are stressed! You would ask, ‘How can they be stressed if they have everything they want?’ That is the exact problem and the major source for their stress. They have everything they WANT, but not enough of what they truly NEED for a healthy development!
Today’s children are being offered:
- digitally distracted parents
- endless stimulation and digital overload
- sedentary indoor lifestyle
- limited unstructured play and social interaction
- unclear boundaries and limited responsibilities
- inadequate sleep, unbalanced nutrition
Wouldn’t you be stressed if you had this kind of childhood? Would you be emotionally available for learning under such lifestyle conditions? None of us would and neither do our children!
A well balanced, natural childhood has been stolen away from our children and replaced with inferior substitutes. Kids’ nervous system is not designed for such an unbalanced childhood, leaving them stressed. Fidgeting, anxiety, impulsivity, inattention, anger, tiredness, and boredom are kids’ ways of screaming to us: ‘My brain is out of balance! I need your help!’ Their cry outs can’t be ignored any longer.
Are we looking for solutions in the right places?
No, we are not!
A teacher’s job becomes extremely challenging as more and more children come to school with an excess of unutilized physical and emotional energy and are not available for learning. For many children, even the simplest task of sitting on a chair is a challenge. Within the classroom environment, teachers are trying to do whatever they can to compensate for the children’s lack of a well-balanced childhood. “Flexible sitting” is the schools’ latest attempt to bring movement into the classrooms by allowing kids to bounce on the balls, sit on wobbly chairs, ride a stationary bike, instead of sitting on chairs during classes.
Would it really help?
No! “Flexible sitting” alone is powerless if kids come to school after spending hours in sedentary, indoor “play” in front of computers/laptops/iPad/T.V./video games, going to bed at 11pm and coming to school without a proper, nutritious breakfast. It can not compensate for the lack of a well-balanced connected childhood.
What is the solution?
As parents, we should start recognizing our contribution to our kids’ challenges. We can’t continue to expect that the lack of a well-balanced childhood would not affect a child’s overall functioning ability at school and home. Today’s children nervous system is out of shape to a point that a bandage philosophy will not resolve their issues. It is OUR responsibility to give them what they NEED, not only what they want. Children need us to put a conscious effort into bringing childhood back to them:
Bring back connection:
- Put your phones aside until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction
- Surprise them with a flower, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
- Have family dinners, shared reading times, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games)
Bring back movement and outdoors:
- Make exercise a family time: biking, hiking, fishing, gardening, dancing, swimming, ball games, climbing trees
- Incorporate movement into day to day life: minimize the use of strollers; get them walking to the school, library, mall, friend’s house instead of driving them; park farther away to get them walking; take the stairs instead of elevators; encourage kids to push a shopping card, carry groceries
Bring back boredom and calmness:
- Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew and do not use technology as a cure for boredom
- Set limits and routines for technology use
- Children need to have an unstructured time to learn to “self-entertain”
- Help kids create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.
- Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
- Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom
Bring back responsibilities:
- Involve kids in daily chores, such as folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their beds, vacuuming, taking out the trash
- 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.
Our children are our legacy and our future. If we want to set them up for success in life, we have to listen to their calls for our help and make deep changes. It is never too late to change the course of their lives!
This story was written by Victoria Prooday, a registered Occupational Therapist, Psychotherapist, founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic for children and parents. It originally appeared on her website.
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