Simplifying Your Kids' Childhood Is The Key To Protecting Their Mental Health, Expert Says
There was a day in the not so distant past when children were free to be children - to let their imaginations run wild.
I'm grateful for the fact that technology was still in its infancy during my formative years. So much so that I shudder when I see kids with smartphones in their hands instead of good old fashioned toys.
Because even with the best will in the world, if you expose your children to technology too soon, and everything else that's meant for us grownups, they will inevitably lose the wonder which makes childhood so magical.
In the video below, a doctor explains how tech affects a child's social development:
Kim John Payne's writes of this in his book, Simplicity Parenting, which suggests that children with simpler childhoods are less likely to develop mental health problems because of the stress of "too much".
In this text, he conducts a study which involved simplifying the lives of children. The results spoke for themselves, with 68 percent of children involved going from clinically dysfunctional to functional in just four months.
Payne said that he first noticed the damage that over complicated childhoods were having on children when he drew a link between the traumatized, hyper-vigilant children living in refugee camps, who he encountered early in his career, and affluent English children who were displaying similar characteristics.
"Modern day children are exposed to a constant flood of information which they can't process or rationalize."
In short, the affluent children, while physically safe, were mentally living in warzones:
"Privy to their parents' fears, drives, ambitions, and the very fast pace of their lives, the children were busy trying to construct their own boundaries, their own level of safety in behaviors that weren't ultimately helpful."
Clearly, Payne noticed a "cumulative stress reaction" to having too much to think about too soon - a problem which is rife among modern children - who then develop their own coping strategies to feel safe; many of which are unhealthy.
In this instance, too much can refer to a number of things - from technology to being enrolled in class after class of extracurricular activities. It can also refer to having too many toys.
"They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations."
That's why an increasing number of parents are opting for a simpler approach to parenting. This can involve giving your children fewer toys so that they take the time to thoroughly play with the ones they have instead of being overwhelmed by choice; similarly, it can involve removing technology from their lives until they are a suitable age.
Payne has split down the problem into four pillars of excess: having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed.
So, in addition to reducing the number of toys available to your child, another great way of simplifying childhood is giving your kids more free time.
Developmental psychologist David Elkins found that children have lost as many as 12 hours of free time a week in recent years, the Huffington Post reports.
Another method of simplifying your kids' childhoods is the discussions you have around them. Yes, global warming is a very real danger, and yes, groceries are getting more expensive, but are these really concerns for a child under the age of five? Probably not. Instead, talk about your kids' creativity with them.
As Payne states:
"Our children have their whole lives to be adults and to deal with the complexities of life, but only a fleetingly short time in which they can be kids. Silly, fun-loving kids."
Sometimes, the best way to prepare for adulthood is to look to the past and how children were raised before we lived in an age of excess - especially in the West, where many children are being brought up by technology.