I am completely overwhelmed and sleepless thinking about the social impact my article had globally. The article “Why our kids are so bored at school, easily frustrated, can’t wait and don’t have real friends?” got over 1,000,000 reads. I knew that many people were concerned about the future of our children, but I underestimated the extent of the concern! I received numerous phone calls and messages from parents, teachers, grandparents, and health care professionals from all around the world.
Teachers have been messaging me saying, “You nailed it… Thank you for voicing what we have been seeing for years”. Parents have also been responding with, “Thank you… We needed to hear that… It is all common sense that somehow got lost”. Grandparents have been saying, “We have been telling that to our children for years, but they didn’t hear us”. Healthcare professionals have commented, “This article has to be a mandatory read for every parent”.
A few critics mentioned, “We were also bored at school”. That may be true as boredom is a universal human state and it has always existed. However, what is alarming today, is that we have an entire generation of profoundly bored to learn children. They are sinking deeper and deeper into a state of boredom and it is getting harder to make them feel excited. It impacts not only their school functioning, but their social, emotional, academic and everyday skills. It impacts many areas of life where they just need to do what is needed, where effort needs to be put or where working through boredom is required. It is scary…
As a parent and a professional, I am certain that parenting is the most challenging job ever created. Parenting requires a tremendous amount of responsibility and creativity. In today’s world, one needs to get an education and license in order to get a job or start a career. The same requirements do not apply to become a parent.
As an overabundance of temptations around us increases, it is becoming more and more challenging to parent children. From my experience as an occupational therapist, I realize that parents want the best for their kids, however, most parents don’t know what “the best” is. Parents are open to change, but they need to be educated on what and how to change!
Not only do parents want what is best for their kids, but so do teachers. Teachers want to teach their students well, however, their job is becoming more and more challenging due to the increased number of children who come to school overly stimulated, emotionally unavailable for learning, and lacking basic social and self-regulation skills. Most teachers who have been teaching for 10 to 20 years can tell you that this problem is getting worse at an alarming rate. Teachers’ voices have to be heard! They are the front line workers who are often the first people who identify a child’s emotional, social and academic challenges.
In many ways, our children are a reflection of our own issues on multiple levels. Unfortunately, in the world of overabundance, we deprive our children of the essential needs, such as emotional connectedness, unstructured play, responsibility, and movement, by replacing them with technological babysitters, absence of parental limits, endless fun, and immediate gratifications. We are spoiling their brains with extremely powerful weapons that rewire their brain to expect high levels of stimulation and perceive non virtual reality as boring. The consequences that are seen in our children’s social, emotional and academic challenges are profound.
We all have to admit that somewhere down the road we took the wrong path. It is not just about parents and teachers. It is about our entire society. We are ALL at fault. We can’t continue walking the same path as it will lead us to a point of no return.
We all have to reunite to save the future of this generation! Parents, teachers, health care professionals, administrators, and policy makers all have to wake up to make the change possible:
- Prevention and early intervention
· Professionals and policy makers have to step up to review and widely publicize guidelines for recommended use of technology for children, recommended sleep hours, and time spent outdoors. This information has to be distributed to all parents at delivery rooms, in doctors’ offices, and in schools.
· There is an urgent need for mandatory parenting courses for new parents. Parents need to be educated about the powerful impact that our lifestyle has on remolding their child’s brain. Moreover, parents need to be educated on how to control technological invasion into childhood.
· Early intervention is proven to be a powerful tool. The key word here is “early”. Parents need to be guided not only on “what” developmental milestones are, but also on “how” to help the child to meet the milestones.
· The valuable knowledge of occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers has to be used in prevention and early intervention. For a while, occupational therapists have been talking about the devastating outcomes of technology overuse and sedentary life style on a child’s development. Our voices need to be heard.
· Parenting is a tough, full time job! Parents need to take more control into their hands and provide children with what children NEED for healthy development, not only what children WANT. Kids NEED limits, schedules and routines, adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, limited access to technology, connected quality time with parents, outdoor play and responsibilities.
· Children need emotionally available parents. Quality time spent with children is an investment into their future. Disconnect from the phones and reconnect to children! Go back to the basics. Teach children to enjoy nature, have family dinners and play board games.
· Prepare them for real life. Real life requires the ability to function under boredom, delay gratification, and to do what is needed to do. Fun is great, but it should not be endless!
· From early years, children need to be provided with opportunity for “monotonous work” as it builds the foundations for future “workability”. For example: helping with cooking, folding laundry, gardening, tidying up toys, making their beds.
· Children used to learn and practice social skills while playing outdoors, however, these opportunities are limited nowadays. Nevertheless, social skills require training as much as any other skills. Therefore, in order to help children to succeed socially, parents need to partake in teaching their children sharing, turn taking, conversation skills and manners.
· Teachers need additional manpower to meet the high needs of today’s children. Too much money is being spent on educational technology! Technology is just an educational tool, but not a replacement for teachers. Many kids would function better if they just had more support rather than more technology.
· Classroom sizes should also be reconsidered. Many children come to school with sensory overload due to the overuse of technology and an unbalanced lifestyle. This makes it extremely challenging for them to function in a classrooms of thirty kids and would function better if classroom sizes were smaller.
· Teaching styles need to be re-adjusted to help students engage and process the information more efficiently, such as increasing the use of hands on, multisensory, and experiential learning.
· As a society, we deprive our children of movement and outdoor play that are essential for their brain development. It is of high priority for schools to incorporate movement breaks throughout the day and increase the frequency and duration of recesses. Limiting recess should not be used as a consequence for “poor” behavior. Kids who stay in for recess are the ones who need recess the most.
· Many children today are overstimulated and have challenges with basic self-regulation and social skills. Calm music and relaxation techniques incorporated into the school day are great tools to help children calm down.
· Revision to the curriculum should be made to meet the challenges of our children:
o As part of the curriculum, children need to be educated on the dangers of the overuse of technology on their brain and provided with tools to balance their lifestyle
o Self-regulation and social skills should be taught to all children as part of the curriculum.
The change is inevitable! Change is never easy, but we have to do it for our children! Hundreds of the families that I work with are proof that it is still not too late. It is still reversible. However, the longer we wait, the greater the long term consequences will be on our children, and on society as a whole.
Working together, even by making a few changes and staying consistent, we can make a lasting positive difference in our children's future and set them up for success. It's definitely worth the extra effort!