The future of the world depends on the happiness of the children of the present. As a way to ensure their well-being, on November 20, 1959 the United Nations approved the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, proclaiming the rights of children around the world. This is why in some countries it is common to celebrate Children's Day.
It is in childhood that an individual develops a mental structure. After all, the first few years serve as a foundation for all the acquisitions the brain will make in the years to come.
It is obvious that no one will go through their entire childhood without going through negative experiences and, thankfully, because otherwise it would not be possible to mature the capacity to tolerate frustration. But it is also true that it is the successive occurrence of adverse situations that, in the long run, can hinder brain development and even alter some important systems. Among them, the neuroendocrine system, responsible for the production of hormones, and the limbic system, responsible for regulating emotions.
The new coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of stress to the little ones. All of them faced harsh situations – not being able to go to school, not meeting friends and relatives, seeing games and trips canceled and the fear of getting sick or seeing a loved one suffer from the disease – were the most frequent sources of stress.
Social isolation forced families to live together daily and spend even more time together. This had especially negative consequences for those who have communication difficulties (they do not share how they feel, have difficulty expressing desires, etc.). In these environments, children who already suffered from some type of disturbance or symptomatology worsened their clinical condition. With children or adults, the space for dialogue needs to always be open. For this, adults must recognize the feelings of children and their peers, be willing to listen to what they have to say and value their emotions whenever they are shared. This is the only way to achieve a warm and safe family environment.
But when all the restrictions resulting from the control of the pandemic are over, rethink your children's daily lives. If adults suffer from the rush of everyday life and lack of free time, imagine what goes through the mind of a child who has a day full of activities. As much as these activities are educational or cultural, they end up becoming obligations and concerns. A routine full of appointments can be very stressful for children.
There are wrong diagnoses of Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit because we have children overloaded with activities, unable to live in the present, unable to absorb the learnings of the present. Children generate expectations very differently from adults. Most of them are unable to compartmentalize their attention by task, so an overload of activities is equivalent to an overload of metacognition on the tasks to be performed, which generates high levels of apparent inattention. In fact, they're just on autopilot. And they're on autopilot because we adults are trying to prepare them for a competitive and voracious world.
But in reality, our job is to give them, above all, a happy childhood. Our children can be happy in theatre, swimming, soccer, music and gymnastics simultaneously, but we have to teach them the meaning of the word priority and, only then, prepare them for this demanding world. But the hours spent in these activities should never occupy the same hours of the day that we adults have occupied. After all, creativity arises out of boredom and is one of the most important and valued soft skills in this voracious world. Therefore, parents must be aware that there is always free time on their child's day, which is every day, so that they can dedicate themselves to whatever activities they want and socialize with the people they love. Now, more than never, providing moments of free activity has to be a priority for adults for children.
Creating dull moments where creativity can emerge is essential. And for this to happen, it is essential to limit the time that our children spend in front of screens, whether television, mobile phone, tablet, computer or game console. A study published by researchers at the University of Calgary in JAMA Pediatrics, a leading North American journal, carried out in collaboration with about 2,500 families, with children between 2 and 5 years old, shows us why. Both at the communicational level and in other aspects - motor and verbal skills, skills to draw certain shapes, among other aspects - the excess of screen is harmful. Children who spend more time on screen tend to have learning deficits and delays, according to this study. This is mainly because learning and development opportunities are being lost. Opportunities to walk, talk and interact with others, that are not used. Opportunities at a crucial age. Childhood screen time creates habits, and prolonged exposure to computer games during childhood can lead to structural changes in brain regions associated with addiction.
Sometimes we are flooded by unfounded information and as the gaming industry is already the third biggest in the world, of course there will be more of those who tell us that babies need to be in front of the screens because that is the world in which they will live. However, this is totally unfounded and challenges most medical thinking on the subject. Babies and toddlers need social and emotional building blocks for brain development and this comes from one-on-one interaction with the adults and peers they are connected to.
Physical play and exploration, eye contact and coziness are low-tech but high-impact activities that should not be missed. So spend quality time with your children and save money on extracurricular activities. The best you have to give children is in you, in the palm of your hand and in your eyes, in any gesture of affection or attention. It is in simplicity.
Remember, the hard part is not being prepared for the complexity of the modern world. The hard part is turning off our complicate button; it's getting back to simplicity, to the present moment. So prepare your kids for the present. They will always have something or someone to bring them to know the complex, the technological, the superficial. Worry about the essence!