THE WELLNESS OF OUR CHILDREN

November 30 2010

Rohit, 9 years old, comes back from school, tosses his bag aside, kicks off his shoes, goes straight to the fridge, grabs a bottle of coke, helps himself to a pack of chips from the pantry, and settles down on the couch and switches on his favorite cartoon show on TV.  His mother Reema goes ballistic as he’s snacking before his lunch. She some how makes sure some decent meal goes in as he continues to watch TV. Reema is not even sure if he knows what he‘s had for lunch! She checks his diary with trepidation…hoping there’s no note from the teacher today. No such luck! “Rohit’s Class work is incomplete- not concentrating in class. Please meet the class-teacher”.

Post lunch he moves to the comp, logs on to his Facebook account to increase his Farmville points. It’s soon time for tuitions. After tuition, he goes straight to his friend’s house. They’re both excited about the new PSP game his friend has acquired! After his mother figures out where he is by 9pm, he goes home for a family dinner- in front of TV of course…Indian Idol is on! His day ends by about ten thirty after struggling with some last minute home work, when he goes to bed with his I-pod. He has to be up by 6 so he can get his school bus by 7am.

Sounds familiar? This is now a typical scenario in today’s urban households. This is the lifestyle of children today: Feasting on coke and fast food, glued to electronic entertainment, busy with tuitions and classes and absolutely no physical and out door play.

So it’s no wonder that the children of our generation do not seem to be as calm as they were, say fifteen or twenty years back. More and more children are on the hyperactive side. Incidences of ADHD that is clinical hyperactivity, autism, learning problems are on the rise. Even a seemingly calm child seems to have difficulty in concentrating for longer periods of time and gets bored easily. Health issues like asthma, skin allergies, anorexia, bulimia, high cholesterol and digestion problems which were earlier considered as medical problems for adults are plaguing children as well. A child today is much more sensitive, emotionally as well as sensorially. A major role in causing these issues can be attributed to changing lifestyles.

The need of the hour is to adopt a holistic healthy approach to life that heals and promotes well being. We are so caught in the rat race to make it big in life or in catching-up-with-the-joneses that we hardly make any time to smell the roses. Our children bear the brunt of our unconscious ways much more than we realize.  They tend to lose their innocence and childhood too soon.

As adults, we often take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the good old days when we ate mummy’s yummy ‘chaklis’ and ran down the neighborhood to play ‘chor-police’. Those were the days of fun and frolic. Don’t we owe it to our children to let them have a beautiful childhood too? It’s time to make some basic simple changes in our lifestyle and watch the magic unfold.

The following are some of the changes that we need to make in our life styles if we want our children to become more grounded and be comfortable in their skin. These tips are helpful universally to all children but some children are more sensitive to the environment than others, and so are more important and necessary for those children who need special attention.

DIET

This is the single most significant change that has happened in the past 15 to 20 years- the sudden flooding in the market of packaged foods, instant foods, sweet, artificially flavored, preserved, frozen foods. We don’t seem to eat fresh food anymore. Even the fruits we buy off the shelves are imported, hence preserved with chemicals. We are feeding our children toxic food in the form of chips, artificially colored candies, jams, juices, colas.  Children are addicted to these foods and denying them their favorite junk food often ends in temper tantrums. More often than not parents give in to their kids’ demands to buy peace, thus starting a vicious cycle of offering toxins as pacifiers, not to mention the fact that they are inadvertently raising spoilt brats in the process.

Please give your children natural, farm fresh, locally produced, homemade foods, free of any artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, sugars. This will play a major role in calming your child and in increasing their attention span. Good nutrition is the very basic thing a parent can provide the child with. Tampering with the basics can lead to many harmful repercussions in the long run.

ELECTRONIC GADGETS

Keep children away from TV. TV is harmful for children, and so are computers, mobile phones, video games, PSPs, microwave ovens. The electro-magnetic field generated by the TV and computer can structurally damage children’s brains. Research supports the fact that children under 2 should not be watching ANY TV at all!

Children have stopped going out to play because of TV. As they are used to being passively entertained, their brains can’t come up with innovative ways anymore to entertain themselves otherwise. They’ve become dependent on these gadgets which have already enslaved our generation. The second the TV is off, they start saying they’re bored! Please don’t worry when they complain of boredom, for that is what leads to creativity!

Parents should cut down on TV time, especially in the evenings when they should be playing outdoors, and during meal times. If they do watch TV, the content should be monitored to ensure what they’re watching is age-appropriate and give suitable explanation where required. And beware of advertisements. They can give the young impressionable mind faulty ideas about what is supposedly good or bad for us just so we go and buy their unnecessary products.

For more information on TV, one can find the article:

Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children’s Minds by Susan R. Johnson, M.D. on the net.

TOYS

Many parents fret that young children get easily bored with the expensive toys that we buy for them. That is because these toys, in spite of their attractiveness, cannot engage the child. They bring nothing out of the child.

What children really need are simple things from the home like paper, boxes of soap, paste, etc, utensils of various sizes from the kitchen, preferably filled with water, chapatti dough, clay, paints, beads, wooden blocks, cloth, simple wooden toys, stones, shells and other treasures from nature. A good toy is only 10 percent toy and 90 percent child! Complete and finished toys give a child no scope for creativity and imagination. Whereas you give a child simple materials, and the child can create entire worlds out of them!!

Once you get the idea, your creativity can take over. Here is a toy hidden in every nook-n-cranny of your house. The trick lies in using your imagination rather than taking the easy way out and buying expensive gadgets across the counter. For example, even if a toddler puts seeds in the masala box he is improving his eye-hand coordination while being fruitfully engaged. And please don’t mind the mess!

If you do any work in the kitchen, keep the child with you on the counter if it’s safe, or on the kitchen floor.

Let the child imitate you and do whatever you’re doing. Washing rice, peeling, pouring, kneading, making balls of dough, sorting vegetables, mopping the floor, washing clothes, all the while talking to the child about what you’re doing. Working with our hands is as good for us as it is for our children. It’s all about being in the here and now, for at least sometime everyday with the child with nothing in between. Not even your thoughts! Try this at home….it’s magical!! You will be amazed at the wonders children work out with everyday humdrum items lying around the house. Their creativity knows no bounds once they get started. Working with the hands is very calming for the mind and builds thinking capacity.

As for the older children, they need to be outdoors with children of their age, sweating it out and engaging in physical sports and games apart from reading and engaging in a meaningful hobby.

ATMOSPHERE

Keep the atmosphere in the house calm and noise free. It will help if the mother also calms down in her thoughts and actions.

Avoid loud music, talk to them in soft soothing voices, meditate and keep your own emotions under control. Children imitate us at an external and an internal level. If we are calm, we help our children be calm.

Avoid choosing a mall as a weekend outing program. You may notice that you feel drained out after a trip to the mall. That’s because malls are an assault on our senses…the sights, sounds, colors, movement, the beckoning products on display, the resisting of temptation, all this puts a lot of strain on us (the games arcade takes the cake for over-stimulation). Then imagine the effect they have on children! If children behave badly in malls, is it their fault?

Instead, go to calmer places like the garden for walks together, to picnics with friends, to the beach, climb a mountain, go boating; etc. There is nothing as rejuvenating as being one with nature. The pleasure of exploring nature’s bounty with your children can’t be compared with a trip to the neighborhood mall.

TOUCH AND WARMTH

Do you touch and hug your child enough? Do you rock him on your knees? Do you bounce him in the air? Do you carry her and go round and round until both of you fall with a spinning head? No? Then do it!

Also massage your child’s (any age) calves and feet at night with oil or cream in gentle circular movements, put on socks, and make him sleep with a story or a song. Warmth in your approach to the child (stress free), and warmth of touch and temperature- these are necessary for every growing child.

RHYTHM

Early to bed, early to rise, truly makes a child healthy and wise. Set a regular pattern – Breakfast, lunch, afternoon nap, and evening play in the park, returning home for an early dinner, getting ready for bed. Make sure the calm ambience (TV off, dim lights, soft sounds, into the bedroom) for sleep is set at least an hour before bedtime. And please remember, children need at least ten hours of uninterrupted sleep, for that’s when their bodies grow and rejuvenate.

Try to maintain the same routine everyday so the child knows what to expect next. But be sure not to be obsessed about it. It’s good to be disciplined but it’s equally important not to lose sleep over it. It helps to be conscious and aware of the better way of doing things and to make an honest attempt at getting better.

This will go a long way in helping your child feel secure, confident and most importantly, be healthy.

I need to put in a few personal notes here. I felt it was important to let the readers know that I have not written the article only as a Psychologist, who has seen in her practice, a number of children whose problems can be traced to an unhealthy lifestyle but as a parent myself, still struggling to make what I’ve written about as much a part of my family’s lifestyle as possible.

When I first became aware of these possibilities, my elder daughter was already 10 years old and my younger one was just born. Three years back, I started my journey into a more conscious way of living. Then I wondered…is it too late to bring about changes in the lifestyle of my family? Is my daughter too far gone in her addiction to TV and instant foods? Will my husband cooperate? But no…now that I am getting to know about a better way to live, I cannot consciously do things that are unhealthy for my children.

So I am not already someone who’s been there and done that, but is someone who is right in the middle of a storm that any change tends to bring about.

But am happy to say that in three years, my first one is almost free of asthma, her school performance has improved and the younger one is more robust than the first one was. It is a hard struggle, but its well worth it.

These are a few things that will surely help your child too if followed with consciousness and conviction.

Don’t worry if you’re going off track. Be aware and conscious. If you could do something right, just be aware that you did. If you couldn’t, you tell yourself that you couldn’t do it this time, but you’re going to keep trying. There is no need for us to judge ourselves on any matter, not just matters related to children. We do what we do and we’re ok. But if we get to know of a better way to do things, we will try that. That’s more important. With practice, you’ll get there and when you see the results, you’ll be convinced and you’ll be able to convince others, that the best way to live is naturally!

It is as if Mother Nature is appealing to us through our children:

“Please slow down; become conscious of what you’re doing; let children be children; respect what is natural; take care of your children and wake up before it is too late!!”

And when I say this, I do not talk about any one child. I’m talking about all the children and parents of the world…the collective consciousness. Every time one more person becomes conscious, it adds to this collective consciousness, and this will help to heal our planet!

Nirupama Rao

2 thoughts on “THE WELLNESS OF OUR CHILDREN

  1. nicely captured… We need to change ourself first.. I have seen in Finland, parents don’t even put pressure on their kids.. They start their studies at the age of 7.. They bring discipline in their children.. Eg for small children, having only one day for candies that too in limited quantity.. Encourage children to play outside.. Irrespective of weather… Spending quality time with children…Emphasis on practical knowledge rather that just being a bookworm.. And surprisingly in Finland, number of noble prize winners in science and maths is highest… So it leaves a question – are we doing right thing that by putting our kids in so much of pressure….infact there is only 1 private school in whole of Finland.. Rest all are govt run and no concept of tuitions after the classes.. Only 30 min homework per day.. And more that that is not allowed… So the question is where we are heading towards…

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    • Thank you Meenakshi! You are the first person to comment on my brand new blog! Yes, I’ve been hearing a lot about education in Finland these days. Its amazing! There are wise people with their government leading them in the right way. This must be a practice of many years. The rest if the world including India feels sooner the better in education. But unfortunately this practice burns out the children exactly when its time for them to shine. Hope we realize this soon and get our priorities right!! Thanks for your comment!!
      Nirupama

      Like

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