We hear all the time in the news that the mental health of our children is worse than ever, that they have too much pressure on them and sadly that more than ever are committing suicide. We live in a comfy bubble in which we convince ourselves that it will never be our children. But I fear this is dangerous. How can we protect our children if we are in denial?
Blaming TV, schools, other people is easy. At some point we need to look at ourselves and how our actions are effecting our children. The vast majority of parents want the best for their children. However, it is not easy providing everything they need, let alone things they may want as well. As a working mother of 2, I am aware of the pressures put on parents by society, their children and themselves. But moaning about how tired, stressed and poor we are will not help our children.
Any parent will tell you, time goes so quickly; before you know it, you no longer have children but young adults. We all know it yet we seem to spend hours on our phones, watching TV or being away from our children. It is not surprising that they are having deep rooted problems. The saddest thing is, there are simple things that can be done, that are completely free, which would result in happier children. And once happier, behaviour, learning and the health of our children improve.
Children not only love being in the great outdoors, they need to be outdoors. Apart from anything else it reduces stress, increases attention span, improves eye sight and promotes social skills. It also provides a place for them to experience stepping out of their comfort zone and challenging how they respond to that. Building up resilience and other essential life long lessons. Whether it is outside in the garden, park or walking by the river it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be time outside playing.
Spending time with their parents
Forget the latest toys, TVs and tablets children flourish by playing with their parents. It doesn’t need to be big days out. It could be something as simple as playing card games, board games, kicking a ball around. The way children respond to parents is different to the way they respond to their siblings and friends. As the adult we know more than our children, through this we can influence their imaginative play and the way they respond to different age groups. It also provides an opportunity to model good behaviours eg how to share, how to win, how to lose, how to persist etc. Above everything it is essential for a strong bond between parent and child.
Learning to be adults
Childhood is there to practice being an adult. This is true across the animal kingdom and our children are no different. They are practicing the skills they need to be adults. Provide opportunities to practice the more practical side of being an adult. Give them responsibilities like laying the table, hoovering, cleaning the car etc. Things like cooking with children provides a great time to play together and to teach them about healthy eating. This should start when our children are toddlers and continue into adulthood.
I strongly believe that all children should go on adventures as I feel this encompasses everything. I do not mean spend loads of money, or in fact any money. Think back to the Famous Five and Secret Seven books, in fact most children’s books, the characters go on great adventures for free. Collecting leaves in the forest or collecting shells on a beach can be an adventure if you are 4 years old.
When you come home after a hard day, we all dread those three words, ‘play with me.’ But our children are young for such a short time. Ironically it is when we are exhausted they are being the most exhausting. They don’t understand that, they just feel rejection. Help your children grow to be strong, well developed adults, take them outside, spend time with them, teach them necessary skills – in short take them on adventures!