As the tragic news of the loss of life from terrorist attacks in the UK fills our TV screens, I continue to worry how this is affecting our children, both now and for their future lives.
In my last blog, I described how when working with high school teens on ‘positive exam prep,’ I asked what they would change in the world if they had a superpower. When one lad replied ‘Kill all terrorists’, it became apparent that their strength of feeling and fears around terrorism was on a par with any exam worries. As I prepare to deliver wellbeing sessions to primary age kids in a local school, I wonder if younger children are equally affected or more able to distract themselves through their natural desire to play: I guess this depends on how the adults around them respond and handle such issues.
I decided to focus the planned session on encouraging physical activity for wellbeing through outdoor play and having fun rather than competitive sport, as a positive complement to the school curriculum. Remembering how much I hated sports lessons at school and knowing that this is not uncommon – especially in girls – exercising through outdoor play seems a better way to go.
I wholeheartedly agree with authors such as Louv, Selhub and Logan that our children are suffering from a lack of ‘Vitamin N,’ or nature-deficit disorder that is having a profoundly negative effect on their psychological and physical wellbeing. It’s not just that they aren’t getting enough outdoor exercise; they are losing an innate sense of nature-connectedness that is such a powerful restorative force in combatting stress and supercharging exercise and learning. I love Fisher’s (2013) vision of the future of ecopsychology as:
‘that of human’s healing and flourishing in concert with the healing and flourishing of the larger natural world”
The added benefit of limiting TV news exposure is a definite bonus.
Happy memories of Childhood Play
One of the activities aimed at focussing on play asks children to share their favourite outdoor games with classmates, so I decided to make a list of the things that I remember playing in my own childhood: climbing trees; making tree houses and ‘dens’; hop-scotch; French skipping (I had to look that one up as I could only think of ‘like cat’s cradle with elastic around the ankles’); hide and seek; kiss chase; paddling and poo sticks and roller-skating to name but a few. Remembering these felt good, if a very long time ago.
So I have set the children some home-play… when you get home today, ask your family or carers what outdoor games they used to love playing when they were little? Hopefully they too will remember happy times and remind themselves to teach their children about the fun of playing in the great outdoors instead of continuous screen-based play. I saw something similar on Facebook too, so technology isn’t all bad…
Fisher, A. (2013). Radical ecopsychology: Psychology in the service of life. 2nd ed. New York: New York Press.
Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. London: Atlantic Books.
Selhub, E. & Logan, A. (2012). Your brain on nature: The science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness and vitality. HarperCollins EBooks.