It’s all changed since our day.
When I am working with parents they frequently refer back to their own childhood and invariably mention that although they had very little as children they always found something to do and were seldom bored. Groups of young friends would meet up of a morning and wouldn’t be seen again until that evening. They might spend the day rolling down hilly fields, climbing trees, fishing, cycling, play sword fighting, water fights, having tea parties, dressing up, playing cowboys and Indians, falling out, falling back in again……endless possibilities and not a screen in sight.
You would travel a good distance today to find a group of children who could squeeze so much fun out of so little. Similarly, you would travel an even further distance before you would find parents who would allow this to occur.
So what happened?
In my opinion there have been a number of societal changes since the 1980’s which has resulted in a more sanitized childhood and a more paranoid parenting culture.
Firstly, there was the rapid evolution in computers and gaming. Play moved from outside to inside, from mobile to stationary. Some game developer in Japan had already done the creative bit so you no longer had to.
Secondly, in Ireland during the 1990’s and beyond we experienced the Celtic Tiger phenomenon. The extra jobs resulted in many homes having both parents out working during the week. Families became financially rich but time poor. Something had to suffer and in many cases it was the parent child relationship. Out of guilt for being away from home for so long during the week parents would compensate by buying “stuff” every weekend for their kids. Today, children deal with boredom by using “stuff” rather than using their imagination.
Thirdly, the perception of what was risky and what wasn’t has changed dramatically after the 1980’s. If you think about it the risk from climbing a tree is the exact same today as it was twenty or fifty years ago. Perhaps the most significant change that has occurred to parenting since I was young is not that childhood has become riskier or more unsafe, rather it is the idea that commercial interests have cottoned on to the fact that serious money can be made from exploiting parents fears and anxieties.
KEY TIPS FOR PARENTS
1. Reduce screen time for your child. (I will show you how in a future post.)
2. Allow children to be bored. They don’t always need stuff or to be doing some structured activity.
3. Before you prevent your child from doing something because of the “risk” ask yourself is the risk really that great? For example, statistically, not many children do serious harm from climbing trees. Therefore, the perceived high risk is in fact a low one. Children need to be able to evaluate risk for themselves also.