Mum and Dad, in 2018 give less and teach more, please
There is a silent tragedy developing in our homes and it concerns our most precious beloved ones: our children. Never in the past 15 years have our children been in a worse psychological state of mind than now. Alarming statistics about the increase in children´s mental diseases prove this, to the extend that these suggest the problem is reaching epidemic proportions:
- 1 in 5 children have mental health problems
- there has been a 43% increase in ADHD cases
- there has been a 37% increase in cases of in teenage depression
- there has been a 200% en the suicide rate of children between 10 and 14 years of age
So what is happening and what are we doing wrong?
Today´s kids are being over-stimulated and over indulged with material possessions, but they lack those things that make up a healthy and happy childhood, such as:
• emotionally available parents
• clearly defined limits
• a balanced diet and enough sleep
• physical activity, especially outdoors
• creative play, social interaction, opportunities for non structured play and spaces for boredom
On the contrary, in recent years, children have seen more and more of the following:
• digitally distracted parents
• indulgent and permissive parents, who allow them to “do as they please” and to set their own rules and boundaries
• A sense of being entitled to everything without the need to work for it, or being responsible for obtaining it
• too little sleep, inadequate nutrition
• a sedentary lifestyle
• endless stimulation, virtual nannies, instant gratification and absolute absence of boredom
So what should we do?
If we want our children to be happy and healthy individuals, we need to wake up and go back to basics. It is still possible. Many families see instant improvements after only a few weeks of implementing the following recommendations:
- Establish limits and remember that you are the captain at home. Your children will feel more secure knowing that you are firmly steering the boat.
- Offer your kids a balanced lifestyle full of what they NEED, not only what they WANT. Don´t be afraid to say “no” to them, if what they want is not what they need.
- Make healthy food choices available and limit junk food.
- Encourage that they spend at least one hour daily outdoors, doing activities like cycling, walking, fishing or just playing in nature.
- Enjoy family dinners without smartphones or any other distracting technology.
- Play family table games together or, if your children are too young for them, try to adapt these to their age and interests
- Involve your children in doing home chores according to their age (folding laundry, tidying up toys, helping with grocery shopping, feeding pets, etc.)
- Implement a night routine to ensure that your child gets enough sleep. This is especially important for children who go to school.
- Teach them responsibility and independence. Don´t protect them in excess against frustration or mistakes. Making mistakes will help them develop resilience and learn to overcome challenges in life.
- Don´t prepare your children´s backpacks and don´t carry them. Don´t do their homework for them or peel their bananas, if they are old enough to do so by themselves. Rather than giving them “a fish”, teach them how to fish.
- Teach them to wait and delay gratification.
- Provide them with opportunities to feel bored, as it is during boredom that creativity awakens. Don´t feel the need to keep your children entertained at all times.
- Don´t use technology as a cure against boredom, nor offer it at the first sign of inactivity.
- Avoid the use of technology during mealtimes, in cars, restaurants and shops. Use these moments as opportunities to socialise and to train their brains to function when they are in “bored” mode.
- Help them to create alternatives by providing them with activity choices for when they are feeling bored.
- Be emotionally available to connect with your children and teach them social abilities and how to self-regulate.
- Switch off smartphones at night.
- Become an emotional coach for your children, by teaching them to recognise and manage their feelings and frustrations.
- Teach them manners: how to greet and say please and thank you, to take turns and share, to apologise and be a role model for these values that you are trying to pass on.
- Connect emotionally – smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump and play with them.
This article was published by Professor Luis Rojas Marcos Psychiatrist. You can find the original publication here.
Photographs were made available by StockSnap