I’ve seen the following article shared and reposted on facebook and blogs. Like the “telephone” game, somewhere down the line the wrong author is cited. In most re-posts, it’s attributed to Dr. Ovid, but is in reality, it’s written by a Canadian occupational therapists named Victoria Prooday and called, “A silent tragedy affecting today’s children.” She stated:
For the past 16 years, I have been working with ‘misbehaved’ children. While most parents believe that their kids’ misbehaviour is intentional, I haven’t yet met a child who WANTS to misbehave. A child’s misbehaviour is just a manifestation of a deeper need. It is a desperate call for help. As a society, we address very differently physical and emotional challenges. If a child has physical challenges, we help our child strengthen the weak muscles. However, if a child has emotional challenges, we put them in time-out! Why? Children with emotional challenges need our help too! They need our help strengthening their emotional muscle – self regulation!
There is a silent tragedy unfolding today in our homes, and concerns our most beautiful jewelry: our children. Our children are in an emotionally devastating state! Over the past 15 years, researchers have given us more and more alarming statistics on an acute and constant increase in childhood mental illness that is now reaching epidemic proportions: Stats don’t lie:
• 1 in 5 children have mental health issues
• A 43% increase was observed in ADHD
• An increase of 37% in teenage depression has been observed
• A 200% increase in the suicide rate among children aged 10 to 14 has been observed.
What’s going on and what’s wrong with us? Kids these days are over-Stimulated and over-given material objects, but they are deprived of the foundations of a healthy childhood, such as:
• Emotionally available parents
• clearly defined boundaries
• Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
• Movement in general but especially outdoors
• Creative gaming, social interaction, informal gaming opportunities and spaces for boredom. Instead, the last few years have been filled with the children of:
• Digital Distracted Parents
• Pampering and permissive parents who let children “rule the world” and be the ones who make the rules
• A sense of law, to earn everything without earning it or being responsible for getting it
• Inappropriate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
• A sedentary lifestyle
• Endless stimulation, technological teddy bears, instant gratification and absence of boring moments. What to do ?If we want our children to be happy and healthy individuals, we need to wake up and get back to the basics. It is still possible! Many families are seeing immediate improvements after weeks of implementing the following recommendations:
• Set boundaries and remember that you are the captain of the ship. Your children will feel safer knowing you have the government in control.
• Offer children a balanced lifestyle filled with what children need, not just what they want. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your children if what they want isn’t what they need.
• Provide nutritious food and limit junk food.
• Spend at least one hour a day outdoors doing activities such as: Cycling, hiking, fishing, bird / insect watching
• Enjoy a daily family dinner without smartphones or technology distracting them.
• Play table games with the family or if the kids are too small for board games, let your interests be carried away and let them be the ones sending in the game
• Involve your children in a task or housework according to their age (folding clothes, ordering toys, hanging clothes, unwrapping food, setting the table, feeding the dog etc.
• Implement a consistent sleep routine to ensure your child sleeps long enough. Times will be even more important for school-age children.
• Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t overprotect them from frustration or error. Being wrong will help them develop resilience and learn to overcome life’s challenges,
• Don’t load your children’s backpack, don’t carry your backpacks, don’t take them the task they forgot, don’t peel their bananas or peel their oranges if they can do it themselves (4-5 years old). Instead of giving them the fish, show them how to fish.
• Teach them to wait and delay gratification.
• Provide opportunities for “boredom”, because boredom is the moment when creativity awakens. Don’t feel responsible for always keeping kids entertained.
• Do not use technology as a cure for boredom, nor offer it at the first second of inactivity.
• Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, shopping malls. Use these moments as opportunities to socialize by training the brains to know how to function when they are in “bored” mode
• Help them create a “Boredom Bottle” with activity ideas for when they’re bored.
• Be emotionally available to connect with children and teach them self-regulation and social skills:
• Turn off the phones at night when kids have to go to bed to avoid digital distraction.
• Become an emotional regulator or coach of your children. Teach them to recognize and handle their own frustrations and anger.
• Show them to greet, to take turns, to share without being left without anything, to say thank you and please, to recognize the mistake and apologize (don’t force them), be a model for all these values that it instills.
• Connect emotionally – smile, kiss, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, play or spoil with them.