THE SILENT TRAGEDY AFFECTING TODAY’S CHILDREN
I was excited when I recently came across a blog by Victoria Prooday, an Occupational Therapist, who also writes parenting blogs. It sums up largely how I feel about our state of parenting today. Of course this doesn’t apply to every parent, but I CHALLENGE YOU to please read this with an open mind and see what things you may need to address in your home or lives. If there are two parents in your home I feel that it is so important that both of you read and absorb it. Victoria seems to be from your generation and she sees a lot of families. This will be a longer blog than normal, but well worth the read! Here’s what she says:
“There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in or 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 unfold 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 past 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’ emotional illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:
* 1 in 5 children has mental health problems (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-health-children/up-to-1-in-5-children-suffer-from-mental-disorder-cdc-idUSBRE94F11N20130516)
* 43% increase in ADHD (http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567%2813%2900594-7/abstract)
* 37% increase in teen depression (http://time.com/4572593/increase-depression-teens-teenage-mental-health/)
* 100% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6543a8.htm?s_cid=mm6543a8_w)
How much more evidence do we need until we wake up?
NO, “increased diagnostics alone” are 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 it, 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 contribute to their challenges in everyday life.
Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parent’s 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 impossible 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.
If you want your 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 limit snacks
- Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, fishing, watching birds/insects…
- Have a daily technology-free family dinner
- Play one board game a day. (List of family games (https://yourot.com/familygames/)
- 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 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 [with] 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 lunchbox/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for an over 4 year-old. 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
- Don’t use technology as a cure for boredom
- Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurant, 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, conversational 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, yet it soon will be… Victoria Prooday.