By Hwaa Irfan
The one thing that modernity and wealth cannot replace for growing children is the outdoors. Children need the outdoors physically, psychologically, spiritually, and intellectually – these aspects of development and well-being cannot be replaced by the Internet and video games.
There could be many reasons why parents today prefer that their children do not venture outdoors. The three most prominent reasons that come to mind are:
Cities are not designed with children in mind, unless one lives in an area where culture plays a strong role in redefining the physical space. This requires a common set of values, commitment, and responsibility whereby a child can go out and play with the children of their neighborhood knowing that they are not alone i.e. a parent is present in the home fully aware of where their child is, and considers the welfare of the children at play, including their neighbors children. Without this working relationship between neighbors, what many city dwellers are left with is an environment of teenagers who have not been raised responsibly/left to their own devices, unemployed youth looking to make their day a little bit more interesting, street crime, and adults who do not honor the rights of children. Responding to the impulse of preventing one’s child from playing outdoors may present it as the only solution, especially if one is limited in choices when it comes to where one lives. However, this solution carries so many problems, problems that will affect the child for a long time on all levels including the social development skills that is a tool to being able to get on with one’s life as a child grows too old to be told to stay at home!
One might be almost inclined to say, that it is normal for a parent to want their child to do better than they, but what do we mean by “better”? Do we want them to do “better” for reasons of status and wealth, or do we want them to lead happy lives? As we can see today, status and wealth is no guarantee of happiness when the economic climate changes. All of a sudden that could be pulled away from underneath their feet, and they would not have necessarily had the most important tool in life, self-esteem! Genuine self esteem does not come with wealth and status, it comes with learning to be happy with one’s self, and to be happy with oneself one has to have trust in one’s own abilities, interests, and talents. If these God-given gifts are undermined by the study pursuit over years with the primary goal being one of economic prowess instead the child will learn the traits of unhappiness, competitiveness, and perfectionism.
Additionally, growing children do not do too well if they are not allowed to stretch a leg, run and jump, shout and scream – basically release all the built up tensions and energy that needs to be expressed. The fact that this is considered an illness (attention deficit/hyperactive disorder) today is reflective of how much adults have lost touch with what it means to be a child, and how much adults have lost touch with nature. The natural environment is where children have always learnt about life, and who they are in relation to life, for there is nothing better than hands on experience when it comes to learning about one’s self. It is not something that can wait until the minimum of 15 years of life spent studying passes them by, because by that time, they would have developed the inability to express themselves, to be emotionally insecure, to be underdeveloped emotionally, and to have poor self esteem even if they do well academically. These psycho-social tools are the tools which will enable a child to use and apply their academic skills. Equally, nature is what helps a child brain to connect as it is not as oppressive and as unreal as what they will learn in the classroom. By keeping a child indoors so that they can do their homework, will result in a conflict between their social and cognitive development, and decreasing ability to concentrate on their studies.
Have you ever noticed what a child tends to play with the most often? It is never the toys made by adults for children. Children find the cardboard box more interesting than the toy that was in it, and that is because man-made toys do not reflect the tools that inspire curiosity, which in turn leads to learning the process of which is:
- Absorption – growing awareness of external stimuli/data, which is filtered by the child consciously or subconsciously, but impacts upon their senses.
- Integration – involves the element of choice, and inspires exploration into the incoming stimuli/data, data which is not simply information, but is a living experience that holds the seeds of true knowledge. It bears no relationship to what others are doing, and is based purely on a child’s curiosity for short/long term development
- Expression – is the sum of what a child has explored, discovered and then realized, therefore hold true to the growing understanding within a child
These three stages are intrinsic to the growth of a healthy child, but is not intrinsic to the standardized forms of education whether that education is public or private. The information received through schooling is one-dimensional of which the child is merely a recipient. This is why children naturally get restless, if there is no balance in their daily activities. And this is why what a child truly needs does not involve expense, i.e. the kind of expense that one finds in a shop or involves a purchase – this is simply learnt behavior based on a culture of consumerism.
A child needs physical development as the earth needs the rain. From the outdoors they not only learn to express themselves freely, but they are also able to stretch their limbs, and increase bone density, muscle strength, and develop healthy lungs. In doing so, their bodies become oxygenated, and their energy flow increases, and Vitamin D comes cheaply with the help of the sun. It is with dismay to learn that Britain has returned to the Victorian era with an approximate 1 in 5 children suffering from rickets, and those children were both from the lower class, and the middle class. British health experts are saying this is a result of changes in lifestyle like staying indoors, but the Department of Health recommending an intake of oily fish, eggs, and fortified cereal and bread to compensate in the winter months. But these foods are staple foods – nothing extravagant, which implies that there is something more afoot, especially if the pollution of the city prevents absorption of the much needed ultra-violet rays of the sun, and if a child has not been breastfed or received goats milk as an alternative.
Rickets in a bone disease, which in allopathic medicine terms, is a deficiency in Vitamin D. The bones become painful, which until a child has had a limb broken, they will not be able to verbalize. The bones get softer and weaker if not arrested, and skeletal deformities develop including the skull, curvature of the spine, thickening of wrists and ankles. With low calcium levels in the blood, the bones become vulnerable to fracture, and there is poor development of the teeth.
Fortified foods cannot guarantee the correct absorption of Vitamin D, and apart from the foods recommended above, fruits and whole milk play an important role on a daily basis. In homeopathic terms one of the key remedies is Silica. In classical homeopathic terms there is an imbalance within the individual that brings about the symptom, and in this case the symptom is rickets. When silica is implicated the person lacks the internal grit which in a child develops through interaction with others beyond the parents and the outdoor world. They lack self esteem and self worth though they may be getting praise from others, but it is not coming from within. They are not expressive, in fact lack conviction on anything, are quite reserved, and may have an anxiety disorder. They also have difficulty in concentrating.
The relationship between the possible reasons given by British doctors i.e. staying indoors, and the homeopathic remedy from a classical perspective seems to emphasize the importance of physical outdoor activities. This does not have to come at a price, as open spaces abound with large parks and gardens. After school activities, can help tremendously to burn off the pent up energy from a day’s schooling, and a few parents can gather together and organize a schedule of activities on a weekend basis taking advantage of the parks, local activities, and any natural environs just outside of the city. Where I live, the parents clubbed together to hire a minibus to take the children out in the summer. With the winter approaching it does not have to be any different just wear the appropriate clothing. Even if it is picnicking outside, it is better than sitting at a table the same way a child spends sitting at a school desk!
It has already been proven that the physical environment of the city overtaxes the brain becomes it bombards the brain with stimuli – this is for adults, so imagine how much more stressful this can be for a child’s developing brain. Studies abound demonstrating how being in the midst of nature reduces one’s pulse rate, blood pressure, and the hyperactivity in the sympathetic nervous system. The immune system improves drastically, and children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder show little symptoms after being out in nature for a while being more able to focus on a particular task. Far too often, we act without thinking, and end up treating a child as if they are young virile terrain for programming. Children are also spiritual beings with a will of their own. Break that will, and you break the child, but give space to that will in the open natural environment, then one stumbles upon self-motivation, and a connectedness with their intellectual and spiritual well-being.
If one is really concerned about the well-being of their children, well why not think of giving them another tool that would enable them to experience the physical natural environment, why not allow to encounter the mind-body art of self defense, and by that I do not mean the reductionist physical forms of karate and taekwondo! Other forms that involve the intellect is archery. If the cost of these art forms are too high, and one knows of a good instructor, why not club together as parents and get the instructor to teach the child as a group! Life is for the living, let the children live so that they can learn!
Hope, J. “One in Five Children Now Have Rickets, Claim Doctors.”http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1329205/One-children-rickets-claim-doctors.html
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