By: Sasha Sukkhu, School-based Counselor for CFS
If we start with the premise that all behavior is communication, then we begin to understand that many of the behaviors exhibited by children today are a reflection of how they are coping with the world around them or should I say not coping with the world around them.
Although there may be similarities, we cannot compare this generation of school-going children to any other as the issues facing our children have become increasingly complex. They have to deal with changing family dynamics, changes in value systems, diversity in social issues and to add to the mix, our students are bombarded with technology.
It is becoming more evident that our children are becoming overwhelmed and do not have the necessary coping skills or mechanisms needed to regulate the increasing demands on their bodies and minds.
Stress, attention problems, frustrations, self-harm and tiredness are just some of the challenging behaviors that we are seeing at school and in the home.
Children are like sponges and will absorb both the good and the bad from their environments.
So how can we understand the challenging behavior presented and what can we do to help our children cope? The answer lies in taking a developmental approach to the physiology and psychology of the brain. Understanding the requirements needed to help our children flourish i.e. focusing on good nutrition, adequate rest and the establishment of strong relationships is a great start!
Taking a developmental approach is in contrast to a cognitive behavioural and medical disorder approach.
This approach helps provide an understanding to treat challenging behaviors. It focuses on helping our children develop the skills needed to cope with and become resilient to life challenges. The body of work presented by Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a powerful resource in applying a developmental approach which stresses that children need structure/routine, benefit from consistency, need unconditional love and strong attachments.
With the increasing demands placed on parents through work and social commitments, nutrition can rapidly become fast-food orientated. We may cave in from sheer exhaustion, hence not reinforcing bedtime schedules or we simply allow our children to occupy themselves on the computer and electronic devices through texting and using social networking sites. Unsupervised online gaming has also become problematic.
We tend to forget that children need supervision and we start to believe that they are capable of making complex cognitive decisions which in fact their developing brains are not equipped to handle. In the process we are losing the attachments to one another and find it hard to communicate. Children find it increasingly difficult to express how they really feel instead they demonstrate their feelings through a display of challenging behaviors.
I was at a restaurant recently and did a social observation experiment to see how many people were fully engaged in their meal and face to face conversations with family members or significant others. The reality was sadly clear, practically every table had at least one person often more than one engaged on their hand-held gadgets (phones and other devices). Many checked their gadgets on several occasions during their meal and there was even one family where every member including the children (the youngest was about 3 years old), was on some type of device at the same time. How the world has changed!
As we move forward to embrace the changes within our social world a good starting point for parents as a preventative measure to address challenging behaviors would be to sit down with your family and set limits/guidelines to help regulate what is acceptable within your family dynamic.
Spend more time communicating about events of the day with your children and encourage them to express their ‘feelings’ in words as you gently guide them in the choices they make.
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