By: Angela Lockwood
Ever used the old “Because I said so!” as a part of your parenting tool kit? I certainly have. This used to work such a treat; a solid end to any objection. But times are changing. Children are switched on and ‘Because I said so’ no longer cuts it. Children are looking at what we do, not just what we say. They are looking to us for guidance and as we experience increasing rates of sickness, burnout from work, and detrimental coping habits we are not painting an aspirational picture. So what are we teaching children about the importance of managing our health and wellbeing?
Through my work as a paediatric Occupational Therapist I have seen over the last decade the changes in how children learn about their place in the world. Even though they can access any information through the internet, they continue to look to adults to help them navigate life. So it is imperative as the speed at which we live continues to hasten that we take the time to notice the messages we are sending our children through our own behaviour. Are we actually practising what we preach? It is so frustrating when a manager expects us to do something at work when we know they would never do it themselves! We need to lead by example and if we are to help our kids establish good habits we have to facilitate that by first monitoring our own.
MY CHILDREN WON’T PLAY OUTSIDE!
To encourage children to play outside there needs to be an incentive: it needs to be more fun than playing on technology inside. One way to encourage this is to get outside and play with them. Kids love nothing more than playing cricket with a parent, or going for a bike ride or even a game of tiggy (hide-and-seek) through the yard. When we go outside in the fresh air and be active with them, they see us having fun and, even better, we are having fun with them; a win-win for everyone.
MY CHILD DOESN’T TELL ME ANYTHING!
Have you noticed the signs in shops that read “We will not interrupt your phone call by trying to serve you.”? These are great! It is frustrating and rude when you are trying to talk to someone and they continue a conversation on their phone. Unfortunately, we often do this as parents. As a child shares their stories from the day we take a call phone or respond to a message. Unless you are waiting for an important call that needs your immediate attention, when a child is sharing a story if the ding sounds or the phone rings, it can wait. By doing this we reinforce to our children that they are important and we are ready to listen when they need to talk.
MY CHILD JUST WON’T GO TO SLEEP!
The benefits of sleep are well known: improved concentration, a strong immune system and helping us deal with stress. On the flip side, poor sleep leads to irritability, sickness and fatigue. Our sleep is important and it starts with what we do before we turn in at night. Set a night time routine for the household that does not involve technology before going to bed (The recommendation is to switch off two hours before going to bed). Night time routines that involve activities like quiet reading, chill out time and a consistent bed time allows us to switch off from the frantic activity of the day and transitions us into a state ready for a restful night’s sleep.
Our children look to us for guidance. To support them in becoming resilient in an ever-changing world we need to model positive habits ourselves. If they look to us for guidance we need to be role models to aspire to.
Angela Lockwood, is an Occupational Therapist with a special interest in paediatrics. Her health and wellbeing programs are used within schools, corporate organisations and businesses to help individuals manage the pressures in work and life. Angela is a keynote speaker and author of “Switch Off. How to find calm in a noisy world” and “The Power of Conscious Choice”.