With interest, I read this 35 paged report called “Putting Children First” available here: http://www.savechildhood.net/putting-children-first.html. This is a United Kingdom publication, but the challenges these children are facing are similar to here in the United States:
Young children today are subject to a range of cultural pressures that were simply unknown to previous generations. Family life has significantly changed, they live in a rapidly advancing digital world, they are much less trusted and more controlled, they have fewer freedoms and significantly less access to nature, they are highly vulnerable
to the dangers of commercialisation and sexualisation and the quality and depth of their learning in the early years has moved from being intrinsically connected to family and community to become increasingly seen as primarily a preparation for later schooling. Child wellbeing in the UK has been the subject of increasing concern. Currently one
in ten children is being diagnosed with a mental health disorder,4 one in three is clinically obese,5 one in 12 of our adolescents deliberately harm themselves and nearly 80,000 children and young people currently suffer from severe depression including 8,000 children aged under 10 years of age. This is a deeply worrying situation that needs to be
tackled head on.
We are dealing with a pandemic crisis in childhood. If this was bubonic plague attacking our children, the government and every citizen would be concerned. But to hear of isolated cases of a mental health disorder in a teenager, or isolated cutting and additive behaviors, isolated cases of obesity within one area – no one seems to really be paying that much attention on a national level. There have been different movements in the United States focusing on different aspects of children’s health and education, but no one movement that encompasses the many branches needed to bring healing to this generation has taken place. I have not seen any public health campaigns for the things that I think would make the most lasting impressions upon helping our children.
What would it look like to really help our children get the best start? Here some ideas, but there are certainly many more areas so feel free to add yours in the comment box below!
- To help parents in a holistic manner so an expectant mother and father could take good care of themselves, know and understand about pregnancy, birth, infant development
- To help the medical community in the US understand fully what natural childbirth really means.
- To increase the rates of Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the US: http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/
- To support mothers after they give birth through home visits by trained professionals to help with adjustment to parenthood
- To really investigate the efficacy and benefit/risk ratio of the current childhood vaccine schedule in the United States
- To provide longer maternity and paternity leaves – maybe even paid leaves like other countries!!
- To help mothers understand infant and toddler development through available community parenting classes and yes, even electronic support through email or a nationwide website or national developmental hotline.
- To support parents in staying home with their children. Inequities need to be addressed in helpful ways to support parents and their children.
- To provide child care for children whose families really need it in a way that doesn’t damage the child – see Lifeways of North America (http://lifewaysnorthamerica.org/) as an organization whose models are helpful in this area. For an example of this in an environment that is a low-income, urban environment see The Sophia Project in Oakland, California: http://www.sophiaproject.org/graphics/OnlineNewsletterSP08.pdf
- Make child care providers and teachers one of the top job fields, some of the hardest and most competitively admitted college programs. Look at the Finnish model for teachers and how they are trained, treated, and compensated.
- To investigate truly the myth of starting school at an early age. From the report cited above:
Nearly 9 in 10 of the world’s nations currently have a school starting age of 6 or 7 – and hardly any countries have England’s effective start-‐
ing age of 4. We believe that English children are significantly disadvantaged by such an early start.
“There is no evidence that a child who spends more time learning through lessons – as opposed to learning through play – will ‘do better’ in the long run. In fact, research suggests the opposite; that too formal too soon can be dangerously counterproductive. In 14 of the 15 countries that scored higher than England in a major study of reading and literacy in 2006, children did not enter school until they were six or seven. And more children read for pleasure in most of those countries than do so in England”
Professor Robin Alexander, Cambridge Primary Review
- Protect childhood from a consumer culture and instead emphasize time with family.
- Provide public media campaigns on reducing activities outside the home for all children so children can be unhurried and not rushed and have time for play.
- Prioritize connection with nature; provide a public campaign with use of the nature pyramid. There was a diagram of one nature pyramid shared on Facebook from Naturally Learning that I liked best but I cannot find a link right now. If I find it, I will post it for you all. Help improve opportunities for movement, especially for urban areas, for all and for all children within the school day.
- Emphasize the dangers of year round competitive sports for small children and emphasize the wonders of play, games and nature for all ages.
- Look at education as a holistic, healing event for a child and teenager. Emphasize movement and games, working with the hands, crafts,music and art along with academics for school aged children. Start formal schooling around the age of 6 and a half or seven, like most countries do.
There are so many more areas and angles to explore in this, but that is the small beginnings I have been holding in my brain lately. If you would like to support this sort of work in the United States, I suggest checking out the website “Alliance For Childhood” here: http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/
Many blessings and love. Let’s be the change we wish to see in the world.