Have you looked around a coffee shop or mall recently and noticed how many children are stuck to your mom's tablet or smartphone? Worse still, the hundreds of children who chase imaginary Pokémon, completely unaware of their surroundings?
Childhood, as I remember it, was much simpler. I had to play with other children or use my imagination to keep myself busy. Now, as I guide Hugo on his journey, I can not help noticing a contrasting lack of simplicity in his daily surroundings. I visualize him growing up as an adventurous and free-spirited child, without the restrictions of aging with cotton or the countless hours he spends watching a screen. However, there are many other elements in our modern culture that can prevent children from living the life of innocence and vitality that nature intended.
Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University conducted a study using data from large sample groups of high school students throughout the United States. The results pointed to a disturbingly constant increase in mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression in children, adolescents and young adults over the past five decades.
So, why are our children not prospering?
The burden of complexity
During the first years of his career, Simplicity Crianza author Kim John Payne was a volunteer in the refugee camps of Indonesia, where many children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Payne observed these children over a period of time and described them as "nervous, nervous and hyper-vigilant, distrustful of anything new or novel."
In contrast to that experience, many years later, Payne recorded the same behavioral inclinations among the English-rich children who attended his private practice. Why do children living in typically safe environments show symptoms similar to those living in war zones? Payne explains that although English children are physically safe, their mental state did not recognize that security. It indicates that the children were "aware of their parents' fears, impulses, ambitions and very fast pace" and, as a result, suffered a "cumulative stress reaction" that led them to develop their own coping mechanisms in To feel safe.
The complexity of our modern civilization is becoming a growing burden for our children. Day after day they are overloaded with new information, hypnotized by technology, confused by the moral ambiguity of society and bombarded with a multitude of corrupt means, which are extremely accessible and almost impossible to ignore by a young mind. They spend less time climbing trees, getting dirty, scraping their knees and exploring the magnificent expanse of their natural environment. When children feel overwhelmed, they lose the valuable downtime they need to play and release stress. Too many options available to the child can absorb their happiness by depriving them of the opportunity to experience boredom, which is an essential stimulant for creativity and self-directed play.
The freedom of a child to play and explore for himself, regardless of the immediate supervision of an adult, has experienced a sharp decline in recent decades. Some research shows that today's children spend 56% more time in front of the screens than playing outside and only 6% of children 9 to 13 years old play outside alone. The ways in which children have historically learned to solve their own problems have now been removed and replaced by controlled school environments that often discourage natural development.
As parents, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling that we are protecting our children when, in fact, we run the risk of reducing their enjoyment of life by diminishing their sense of self and preventing them from discovering true passions. Predictably, this increases the likelihood that they will suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.
In a modern and typical school system, tests and grades are given more weight than promoting a child's natural development. Children quickly learn that their own preferences and judgments of competence do not count; what counts are the preferences and judgment of their teachers. In the minds of most students, the objective in class is not competition; They are good notes. Given the choice between actually understanding a subject or achieving an A grade, most students today would choose the latter.
Too great for preschool
The Scandinavian culture has a tradition of using the outdoors as a learning environment, not just a place where children can let off steam. Children of kindergarten age in these areas attend "forestry schools" where they can run freely through the mud, swing, climb trees and immerse themselves in nature. Adults are present, of course, but a great emphasis is placed on allowing children to learn through their own evolutionary mechanisms instead of controlling their actions. In some forestry schools, children are even taught basic survival skills and are allowed to use knives and other tools to improve their skills. Other learning activities include the preparation of garden beds, the planting of seedlings and the understanding of the old cycle of sowing, raising and harvesting crops. They are encouraged to ask as many questions as they can, which often leads to group discussions and spontaneous interactive learning as a result of each child having the opportunity to express their opinions.
The solution is simple.
It is very easy to read these kinds of articles and feel overwhelmed, but the solution is wonderfully simple and you will not do this alone. Here are some fundamental ways in which I have begun to implement the wisdom of these teachings in Hugo's life.
Gardening is an amazing way to get your children into nature and, in most cases, they will be so fascinated with the process that they will forget movies and video games almost immediately. Even if you only have a small herb garden or some pots, be sure to involve your child in the whole process and teach him how to maintain the garden so that he has a sense of independence and responsibility. There's nothing like taking out your first carrot or picking up your first snow pea and eating it right there in the garden!
2. Play (outdoors)
Playing is the most powerful version of self-directed learning in which a child can participate. More and more research points to the fact that children are spend too much time insideand, as a result, their physical abilities are decreasing, leading to increasing rates of childhood obesity. I love when Hugo runs outside, climbs trees, gets dirty and even comes home with some scratches and bruises. There is nothing wrong with your son refining his evolutionary instincts in the "wild"!
3. Minimize screen time
I think a child should not have more than 1 hour of screen time each day. While it is important that your children are "aware" of the technology to avoid falling behind from an educational perspective, it is a good idea to implement time limits on digital devices and television. For most of us that seems to be common sense, however, it gets complicated when you have a very irritable 4 year old who just wants to see his favorite cartoons, so he tries to make the alternative (preferably something on the outside) be irresistibly exciting so that I really want to get away from the screen!
There are so many fun and simple ways to involve our children today to improve their mental health outcomes in the future!
We would love to hear what you think about children's mental health in the comments below!
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