(Especially written keeping in mind the young adults, people who are contemplating marriage and parenthood and parents of young children. This is not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear)
The world has changed a lot more in the last 5 years than it has in the last century.
Ola, Uber, flipkart, Amazon, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Google maps and numerous other apps have significantly changed our lives. Life is going to become increasingly impossible to live without our ubiquitous cell phones that can, incidentally also be used to make calls.
Technology has definitely improved the quality of our lives. It has helped save a lot of money, energy and time. It’s like any other invention like the knife or the atom bomb. It all depends on how we use it.
Netflix has a series called Black Mirror (the ipad, laptop or tablet screen that’s turned off) which projects into the future where technology takes stranger turns and transforms humanity in unimaginable ways. Many works of science fiction have been prophetic and that thought is quite scary!
In fact, even infants have their eyes glued to their gadgets that are stuck to their prams, as mom is busy shopping. Six month old babies don’t eat anymore without watching their favourite cartoon/nursery rhymes on YouTube or listening to their favourite Bollywood number.
My now adult nephew’s friend is earning in Crores by making nursery rhyme animations of questionable quality.
Ten year olds want have their own Youtube channels. Children are not going down to play as much as they used to earlier.
Parents in restaurants are feeding their babies but not before handing them their smart phones to keep them distracted.
You go to any social get together and you find children and adults alike busy with their screens, even relatives who get together after a long, long time. Couples in restaurants are busy looking into their own smart phones instead of looking into each other’s eyes.
Parents are not able to set limits as they are themselves hooked on to it as the IDEA 4G AD says “Look look, India hua hook”
Social networking apps have several people employed only to make sure people are always hooked.
I wonder if there’s an app to measure the number of hours people spend with their phones….(update: yes there are many)
HOW ARE OUR LIFESTYLES AFFECTING US
Given this situation, young children who are affected the most, are speaking less, moving less, playing less. This is giving rise to many issues like speech delay, poor muscle tone, coordination and many sensori-motor disturbances. It’s hard to imagine the repercussions this is going to have in the future.
Just as cardiac problems, hypertension, BP, infertility, cancer and diabetes are called lifestyle diseases among the adult population, children are also exhibiting various lifestyle related symptoms like hyperactivity, low muscle tone, sensory processing disorders, autism like features, speech delay, aggression and so on.
There are 4-5 children with issues in a class of 20 children at a playschool I visit. Since it was too time consuming to talk about the same causes and effects to each parent individually, we decided to address the parents of the whole school regarding these modern challenges faced by today’s children, and in turn, parents and teachers. The talk was surprisingly very well received by the parents who were being swept by the wave of technology and lifestyle. But when this was brought to their awareness, it was like an awakening.
Most of us adults are sleep walking through life, flowing with the current and doing what everybody is doing. As humans, we have individual egos that help us to think independently for ourselves unlike animals that are governed by a group ego and herd mentality. ‘Normal’ is no longer most healthy.
We need to think for ourselves and consciously question our choices, especially when it comes to our children. Is this the best that I can give my child? At every step, we need to question ourselves about the choices we are making. Is this what is good? Will this calm my child or excite him? Do I satiate him immediately or do I deal with the tantrum? Do I spend time with him or do I hand him the I pad?
HOW LIFESTYLES ARE CHANGING
Technology is only one part if the lifestyle changes we are witnessing. The world we live in and how we are living is changing in many different ways. Now let us look at what are the lifestyle aspects that are impacting the true potential of the future generation.
What are we doing differently from the previous generation that is giving rise to issues that they did not face?
- Increase in the number of vaccinations and antibiotic As we are developing resistance, we need to look for stronger doses! The body is no longer allowed to fight infections on its own. We are reducing natural immunity by resorting to unnatural prevention.
- The missing family physician that used to listen more, diagnose simply by checking the pulse, and not immediately order a battery of tests. Counseling was part of his job profile. Today there is no time for that. There is no time to lose. We need to get better immediately even if we have to suppress the symptoms- child or grown up.
- A surge of packaged, instant, refined, fast and processed food in the market. As far from real food as it is possible.
- Increased use of GMO in agriculture.
- A sudden flooding of technology into our lives which is becoming increasingly indispensible. Children and adults are equally glued to gadgets, no matter where they are. Some schools have started using gadgets too. Movement and physical activity is reducing.
- Early start in school and academics: Children are packed off to schools even before they are two (a mistake I admit to making with my elder one and am not proud of it). Children take about 6 years to get ready for school in terms of developing the necessary skills like sitting, focussing, pencil grip and so on. I realised the hard way that feeding young children information too early is detrimental to their physical health and well being. Early start leads to fatigue and burn out. Learning is a lifelong process. Even the elderly people learn. What children under six need to do is play, run, get messy and explore.
- Lack of regularity in eating and sleeping times and in the rhythms of the day. Even children under 5 are not getting their sleep needs met. It is now normal for children to go to bed anywhere between 10.30 to 12. I have seen children who can’t sleep before 1 am!! Children need to eat early and sleep early.
- Pollution: all kinds of pollution. Air, water, food, noise, wifi radiation, electro-magnetic waves, you name it.
- Excesses: there is excess of stimulation- noise, visuals, entertainment, material abundance, food, flavors, sugar, excess of everything. We don’t know where to draw a line and say this is enough. Over-stimulation makes children Hyperactive. Once the stimulants are removed, children calm down. They will not need shadow teachers or go for therapies if healthy practices are adopted right from the word go. we do not need to be entertained all the time. Sometimes it is important to do nothing!
- Consumerism: businesses go to any extent to make people want to buy their product. It doesn’t matter how the product may affect the gullible people- their body image, their self esteem, their self worth. As long as the product sells, everything is OK.
- Media boom: Media is everywhere…it constantly keeps telling us who we are, how to think, what to eat, what to wear and gives us information that they want us to have. We are at their mercy completely and we have created these ourselves.
- Role reversal: Children being only children and the recipients of the abundant resources, they are no doubt the centre of our existence. However unfortunately, the children have been given the control and parents listen to children instead of it being the other way around. Experts say “be their friend” and this has been completely misunderstood. Children need parents who will set the limits for them and handle them with firmness instead of becoming putty at their hands. There is a simple reason for this. We are adults, hopefully with the experience and they are children with apparently no experience to take decisions and make judgments. We have taken up the role and responsibility of being parents and we are not here to relinquish control to the little ones who don’t have the experience to weigh what is good for them and what is not. It is difficult for us to see them cry. We need to learn that sometimes a ‘no’ expresses much more love and concern than a ‘yes’. This is especially true in parenting. Having said that it needs to be balanced with a good measure of love and presence to make it work!!
We need not wait until things go to such a head that we cannot reverse it anymore. I’m not sure how much of it can be reversed even today, but as free thinking independent individuals, we still have our capacity to think for ourselves and make conscious choices wherever it is possible.
People are doing that…and they may be judged for it, but that does not stop anyone from breaking the mould, seeking an alternate way of life. They are awakening in their own unique ways.
People are seeking out alternative medical practices, alternative schools, home births, water births, saying no to vaccinations, going in for veganism and organic food, taking to farming, minimalism, slow food movements, supporting sustainable and humane businesses, breaking gender stereotypes, going for yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices and so on and so forth. People are finding their own individual path and have started believing in natural and holistic lifestyles.
People are truly awakening and are refusing to follow so called ‘normal’ currents.
WHAT CHILDREN NEED
Children need to grow up in calm, simple, uncluttered homes with less toys, with good healthy routines, minimum entertainment, lots of physical activity and maximum time out in nature. They need parents who are warm, loving, playful, in the here and now, who believe that less is more and slow is good and are conscious, ecologically aware and most importantly, trusting. Children who grow up in such homes have better stamina, better resistance to diseases, recover faster from illnesses, are much more calm, grounded, balanced and happy, there is more resilience and are able to bounce back sooner from situations.
Even a child with autism who is brought up in the above-mentioned manner may experience reduced aggression, hyperactivity, sensory issues and will be able to realize his true potential using the gifts that autism brings with it.
Our lifestyle has changed, but the archetypal human nature remains the same across time and space. We are still a product of nature. We are still made of the same elements that makes the rest of the natural world. The more we are in harmony with nature and its rhythms, the more we are in good health- physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Human evolution is not over yet. We are still evolving. The human being is now peaking in terms of intelligence. There’s much more to be achieved intellectually. But what lies beyond human intellect? What direction is our next step in evolution going to take?
It will be interesting to see….until then, let us arise, awake, ask questions and think as the conscious beings that we are! We may still not be perfect and yet to do things the way they need to be done but what is more important is that we are aware and conscious of our actions.
This can be our practical, everyday, living and individualized spirituality.
(Psychologist, Parent Counsellor),
Co Author: Parenting-The Art and Science of Nurturing ( with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS)
Contact: 9987653780, email@example.com