Is Modern Living Creating a Crisis for our Children?

I’ve talked before about my worries about the pressures on our teenagers today. I’ve also written about how we could be causing anxiety in our children. I read about how anxiety, depression and mental illness is on the increase and I’ve seen a rise in anxious children in the primary schools I’ve worked in over the last 20 years. As teachers, this is often a topic of conversation in the staff room. Why is it that young children, some aged just 9, are becoming more anxious about life? It is a real worry. This post is not meant to cause offence and these are my own views but I’m talking about real situations that I have witnessed.
I’m wondering if our modern lifestyles are one of the reasons for the rise in our children’s anxiety?

Every child deserves a worry free childhood where they feel loved, secure, happy and cherished. For this to happen, children need loving, available adults in their lives, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, physical activity, a chance to play creatively in an unstructured environment with other children and clear guidance with a chance to develop independence.

Children in a trampoline
Time to play outside is so important

I wonder if many modern children are actually getting distracted, stressed parents, inadequate sleep, too much sugar, not enough time outside, digital babysitters, instant gratification with a lack of boredom, too much academic pressure and parents that overindulge their children? I’ve seen these children in my classes; children that can’t wait their turn, children that have a tantrum when mummy doesn’t sort out their bag, parents who insist it’s my fault that their child is not reading when they never have time to hear them read, children that are over weight, children who cry if they get a spelling word wrong because mummy will be upset and children who come to school and tell me they’ve been given a iPhone for their birthday when they are 6. This is something that I have seen happen over the past 20 in my career as a teacher and I’m not sure I like it! I’m not talking about being a perfect parent as there is no such thing but I do worry that the mental health of our children is often overlooked.
So what can we do about this and how can we help children have the childhood they deserve?
1. The greatest gift we can give children is our time.
Spend time with your children. Take back control and gadgets at the dinner table and talk to each other. Engage in conversation and find out about what they are doing in school or what they like. Play board games together, listen to your child read, make up  funny rhymes with your child, go on bicycle rides and encourage them to make dens. Please put away your phones as not every waking moment needs to be documented. I’m certain that if you asked your child what they wanted more than anything else in the world, it would be to spend more time with you. It’s only in spending time with our children that we get to know what they need.
2. Control their diet and say no to too many treats.
You are the parent so say no if you don’t want your children to have too many treats. Again, I see this all the time and I just don’t understand it. I know it’s easier to give in to your children but when it’s your child’s health at stake, saying no is easy! There is an increase in children’s tooth decay in the U.K. I would be horrified if either of my children had teeth removed due to tooth decay! I see children in school that can’t run because they are so over weight. Why don’t their parents see this as a worry too? You should be able to see an average 7 year olds ribs when they raise their arms above their head.

Boy playing with his trains
Buy age appropriate toys

3. But age appropriate presents.
Does you 6 year old need an iPhone or a Fitbit? Of course they don’t! They may think they want one but it’s possibly because they have seen them being advertised. What they really need are toys that will spark their imagination and creativity such as Lego, dressing up clothes, games, scooters, chalks, paint, small world toys and outdoor toys. During the last 20 years, I have noticed that children find it more difficult to use their imagination to create games and they get bored very easily. The children who find this the most tricky are those that spend all their free time on computer games. I don’t think computers are bad by the way but I do think that young children’s time on them should be limited. Children need to be bored so that they come up with activities for themselves; remember, you are actually doing your child a favour when you don’t fill up all their time with planned activities.

4. Get your children outside as much as possible.
I understand that many parents worry about their children playing outside without supervision but they can still play at the park after school with you there or kick a football in their garden (if they have one). I used to stand outside on the estate where we used to live and watch my children play on their bicycles with their friends. As they got older, they were allowed to go out of my sight for increasingly longer periods of time. This meant they could go to the local park from about the age of 10 as long as they were back within the hour. If you don’t want to allow this, you could still walk to school or try to get outside with them. Being active as a family will ensure they are getting enough exercise as well as fresh air.
5. Allow independence.
Children want to be independent but we often don’t allow it to save time or our patience! I’m not talking about going places alone but learning age appropriate skills such as making a sandwich or putting away their things. I see so many parents carrying the bags of their children on the way to school or parents getting involved in their children’s friendship woes. Allowing children to grow up and manage their own lives in small ways help them to become independent. Ask yourself, could my child feed themselves and tell me when they are full, at age 5? Of course they can! Stop babying your child, they won’t thank you for it!
I do think that the increase in anxiety in our children is multifaceted. Our education system is seriously flawed and there is far too much emphasis on results for my liking!  As you know, I’m very passionate about education but feel increasingly sad that young children are worrying about their GCSE results in Year 7. That is another post for another time. However, what we can do is look at our own parenting and decide if we need to make small changes that may make a difference.
Do you agree? Maybe you think my views are outdated? Do leave considered comments….I love a good debate! Take care. X

Rhyming with Wine
JakiJellz
After The Playground
Burnished Chaos

53 Comments

  • I did a lot of head nodding with this. We have a two year old and one of the key things I’ve come to realise is that already there are adult expectations and pressures put on them. They need our time and patience and they need to be kids. I worry about the impact of technology as they get older and although they grown up in very different times to us, I want them to enjoy this phase for as long as possible. Getting out, doing more, being present are all key themes for this year for us. #TriumphantTales

    • Oh I’m so glad it’s not just me but mums of little ones too! Thank you so much for your comment. X

  • YES! I agree with all of this! I might seem “old fashioned” but boredom, time outside, time chatting as a family, family mealtimes – they’re all a recipe for happy kids. Having said that, I don’t think schools help the situation by piling on loads of homework and pressuring kids about getting good grades from a young age (I realise this is not all schools but it is what we are facing at the moment with my 6 year old). We just all need to chill out and realise that everything doesn’t need to happen now – create space and time instead of rushing everything #dreamteam

    • Yes to chill out!! I sooo agree and I teach this age group! There’s a difference between supporting children and pressuring them too. Thank you Lucy. X

  • I agree too, SO MUCH!
    My son, now 17, has always spent a lot of time outside and in nature, with no phone till he was 11, and still not allowed to have it in his room at night except at weekends- and the wifi goes off at 9.30 at night except weekends. He’s a grounded, kind, thoughtful young man, and has had massages and acupuncture if feeling too anxious/stressed. I feel so blessed his Dad and I (divorced) have brought him up this way, and I can’t imagine how many poor children are struggling with too much technology and crap food; the changes you have seen as a teacher sound terrible. Thank you for this post, G

    • I’m so glad you agree….it was a tricky post to write as I wasn’t sure how other parents were feeling! We have similar aged children (mine are 15 and 17) nd we do as you do regards to the WiFi. Mine had to wait until they were 12 to have a phone and I think that was about the right age. Now I see 6 year olds with phones…..it’s crazy!

      • I think as modern parents, dealing with this whole ‘wifi’ thing for the first time, we have to speak up, and set firm boundaries. So much research condemns too much social media/screen time, and we need to heed that: it’s our job! I’ve seen 3 year olds plugged in with their little headphones in in restaurants and even at the park… what the hell!??

        • I know! Why can’t parents talk to their children??

  • I totally agree, Sophie. I often give this advice myself. It is very important to spend that time with your children – being in the present moment with them, enjoying their company – talking with them, singing songs, playing games, reading, wondering with them, seeing the newness of the world and its idiosyncrasies through their eyes. There’s nothing like the sound of a child’s laughter and the warmth of their unconditional love. But it all needs to be nurtured, it won’t grow alone.

    • That’s it Norah! Thank you so much for your lovely, positive comment. X

  • Such sensible advice! I’ll just comment on one thing you mentioned–sugar. I like to remind parents of “skinny” children that the fact that your child is not overweight (now) doesn’t mean he’s not consuming too much sugar. I personally limit my sugar intake to not more than 6 teaspoons a day, but I see lots of children (who presumably should consume less sugar than an adult) consuming many times that–sodas, fruit juices, candies, cookies, processed foods that contain sugar, cereals. If a comfort food blogger who bakes all the time can do it, anyone can! And it doesn’t take will power; at that rate of consumption, the cravings disappear. #triumphanttales

    • You are so right Jean! Thank you. Sugar is in so much these days. I know children need some in their diet but you are so right about the hidden dangers of sugar, thanks.

  • Hi, I totally agree with all of your suggestions even if it may seem a little old fashioned. It is important to spend as much time as we can with our children, enjoy the outside more, and try to eat healthily #TriumphantTales

  • We are Baby Boomer parents of Millennials (Teen and Tween) and we practice exactly what you present…the way we were taught and it is working (so far) like a charm. 🙂 So no challenge here…I agree with you and hope to do this parenting even better than my own parents did.

  • This was a great read, and so true. It’s so important that our kids are allowed to be just kids. They’re got the rest of their lives to be bothered by phones and technology etc #dreamteam

  • I agree with this so much! I think children have too much pressure on them these days and are put in front of a screen way too much! I’m a strong believer in family time, playing outside, doing crafts and reading books with them!

    • Thank you Little Darlings for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. 😊

    • Thank you Anne. That is kind. It’s tricky as my own children are no little anymore so perhaps times have changed but I know what I see as a teacher. X

  • I’m so with you on all of this and it’s one of the reasons I gave up teaching the younger age groups here in dubai, they had everything, inc maids to carry bags etc, if i asked a child to do something, they complained to their parents, who made a complaint to the school and i was told to apologise, yet on the same note i was told to promote independence, go figure….. #tweensteensbeyond

    • I can imagine…I really can. Just terrible and sad really. X

  • This discussion is so needed right now! Many kids have anxiety and their attention spans are short.. I think you’re right that time is a valuable gift for me. I’ll be including this one in my end-of-week roundup!

  • Society needs this debate because the health statistics show that something is clearly not working. GCSE results may be improving but overall happiness is declining and more and more young people are relying on strong medication to get by. I agree that this position is unsustainable. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Yes, I wonder when ‘someone’ may take any notice!

  • I think this is such a powerful read and I agree whole-heartedly. I think that as parents many of are struggling with our own anxieties and under huge amounts of pressure. It does all of us good to take a step back and take control of our choices, and the responsibility that we have to our children. Thanks for linking to #DreamTeam x

    • Thank you. It’s tricky sometimes to know if it’s just me noticing these things!

  • I agree Sophie BUT I am seeing a very VERY slight nod towards doing things differently. I cannot tell you how heartened I am to have started a few little things. It’s going to take more than that of course but every little step ……. thanks for sharing such a pertinent post with #tweensteensbeyond

    • Ahh I would be interested to know what those things are, Nicky.

  • Lots of people agreeing here, as do I! I wonder how many have disagreed and not commented? That would be a shame as I’d love to have read some other thoughts! Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again tomorrow.

    • Yes I thought the same Jaki! I really don’t mind if people do disagree with me! It makes the world a more dynamic place if we debate…..

  • I have seen parents buying phones for their 6 year old and I’m flabbergasted by it. I mean, I get wanting them to play games on a phone while waiting in the grocery line or something like that but for the most part kids do know how to entertain themselves. Then there are children on the spectrum who need digital devices to keep them busy when the parents are out just so the child doesn’t get overwhelmed with his/her surroundings. That I understand but generally speaking, what does a 6 year old need an iPhone for? My teenager didn’t get his first phone until the 8th grade. They get to a certain age where they are staying after school for activities or going out with friends, you want them to have these things but my youngest still doesn’t have a phone and he won’t until he becomes a teenager. I also think that with the higher work demands of the day parents are a lot more stressed out and that trickles down to the kids. School work has also gotten more difficult at an earlier age which causes stress for many children. So yeah, I think in some ways modernization is causing more stress but I also think it’s up to the parents to ensure their kids have a stress free home environment because the outside world is going to be stressful. Spending time with our kids is crucial for that well being. This is a great post! Very thought provoking:) #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Thanks Rockin mum. I agree with you. Thanks for stopping by. 💋

  • I couldn’t agree with all of this more! It does seem like there is so much more pressure on children today and they don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with these insane pressures. Throw in screen time, stressed parents, lack of fresh air, poor diets. It’s really sad. I’m not a perfect parent, my kids occasionally have screen time (iPads maybe once a week, maybe less) My 81-year-old world-travelling grandad told me not to worry about the advancement of technology, and very wisely said that life moves on, changes and evolves as we risk get letting left behind if we keep our heads stuck in the past. I think it’s teaching children how to use technology safely and in moderation – like with anything really!

  • I do agree with a lot of this. I find school especially puts so much pressure on my eldest that she seems constantly stressed. I had to sit her down last year and explain that all theses tests at the age of 7 will mean nothing in 10 years time. She is still learning and won’t always get it right. I think education is important and we do make sure homework is done but even that is given out a little too young I think. After 6 hours at school kids need time to be them & play just as we need a break from work and adult stresses. Not that I won’t use homework as an excuse to get out of something haha! Great post! #familyfunlinky

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. You are right. At 7, she is far too young to worry and that’s the point I think. I just wish this government would realise that children deserve a childhood that involves a stress free, happy, playful existence….well I can dream can’t I?

  • I am really worried about this and the pressures on children today. It’s a few years off for me but I don’t think you can start too early. I wholeheartedly agree that our time is the best thing we can give them and not over indulging in sweet treats. I try really hard to explain the importance of good choices to my eldest but really it goes over her head at the moment. All of these things are very important though and I hope I keep to them as mine age. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

  • This is a really thought provoking post – I am definitely guilty of some of these. Going to show it to Misery Guts! #familyfunlinky

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