The thing about child development that conflicts so hugely nowadays with most family life is time. Children need to wander through life at their own pace in order to learn, whereas adults are mostly required to accelerate through it. We have constant demands and to do lists and never have enough hours in the day. Children on the other hand are born with no concept of urgency. Life is to be marvelled at and soaked up in order to develop.
The digital age has meant we have become used to being constantly rushed and having everything instantaneously available to us. It is very easy to forget that our babies and children are free from these pressures and constant demands and flashes of ‘now now now’ and ‘next’. Their emotional and social developmental needs are very much what humans have always required. Comfort, love, attention and time.
It is therefore a particularly difficult time for parents. We were brought up one way, yet we are trying to navigate bringing up our children in the same way but within a very different environment. It’s complicated and hence there is conflict and stress and much talk of the need for ‘boundaries’.
Are the ‘terrible twos’ so terrible or are our children just not being normal? Is it not that our abilities to manage these stages of development are made harder by the constant outside demands? Understandably, parents are trying to control a situation in which often they feel little control.
We are expected to work longer, and in more pressured environments in order to pay for basic stuff which is ever more expensive (heating, housing and food). At the same time we need to be calm and comforting and provide time and patience for our children. It’s a massive problem I see for both the health and development of both parents and their children.
This is a bigger problem than I can attempt to solve here but as a parent I think it’s important to be aware. Aware of the conflicts we face, be kind to ourselves but also be kind to our children. They deserve moments of our undivided time and how many of us can answer honestly that we give this regularly (without a screen or distraction in sight)? We don’t yet know the full impact of screens on children’s development but we know it isn’t going to be good. A distinct reduction of eye contact alone will I fear, over time, impact a child’s ability to communicate, read body language and feel ‘heard’.
So for this New Year I urge you to go forth with whatever positivity you may have about various things but also be aware of how hurried you are. I urge you to notice how much your children need you to get out of the fast lane and amble over into theirs. When you are stressed and need them to do something, ask yourself if your expectations are fair. See the world from their perspective. Slow down and marvel. Play. Put your phone aside and let them lead. You deserve that time too.