When my four sons were young and I was working as a teacher life was busy, very busy. However if I was raising my boys now, just a decade later, I can only imagine how much more chaotic it might be.
Back then, I'd work, take the boys out for a kick of the footy or a swim after school, come home and get dinner on while they played outside and did their homework.
If I imagine myself in the same position now, I'd probably have to pry their iPods and DS games off them to get them to play footy while I resisted the urge to check texts and emails on my smart phone instead of joining in the game.
We'd probably also have to have a negotiation when we got home not only about homework but over who gets to use the computer so they can chat to their ‘friends' online. How things have changed!
If we were like the average Australian family, everyone in the house might be switched on to technology in some way most of the time, whether that be via a smart phone, gaming device, TV, MP3 player, computer or otherwise.
There's no doubt our modern lives are far more chaotic than the lives of our parents and grandparents who didn't have to contend with the urgent interruptions of beeps and ringtones.
Everyone is very busy and technology constantly interrupts our days in small ways, so small that we may not in fact see the impact this constant chaos is having on our children, or ourselves.
Modern life is really putting pressure on our children- especially sensitive children -and the result of this is stress.
Consistent stress becomes distress and the brain is seriously affected. We can see potential signs that a child is stressed and struggling when they demonstrate irrational behaviour, poor health, unstable emotions, moods, sleeplessness, restlessness or defiance.
We adults have sped up the pace of life and living. We live in an instant world where we expect everything NOW. Communication, food, pain relief, results, well-behaved children - you name it, we expect things instantly.
This expectation works silently and unconsciously creating stress when things do not always happen like that.
It's important to remember that children take all of childhood to grow – to learn how to think, play, learn, process information, behave appropriately – manage their lives, dress themselves, find their way home and learn who they are. We cannot rush this vital development and nor should we as it is precious. Childhood cannot be hurried or children can develop poor stress regulating systems that continue right through life.
So what can we do? We want our children to be able to cope and thrive in our busy world, to keep pace with modern living without suffering.
Like charity and manners, the solution starts at home. It's the magic of silence and stillness.
Families who consciously create calm and quiet times at home are building enormous support structures that will help their children and teenagers feel safe, allow them to enjoy their own quiet company and lower the stress levels within their growing bodies.
It doesn't mean we have to reject all forms of technology and go and live in a yurt - it's just about taking small, simple steps and introducing a period in the day where all the technology is switched OFF and the family enjoys 15-30minutes or more of calm.
Tips to calm your home
- Be comfortable with quiet yourself and model it.
- Slow children's lives down – hurried children struggle
- Remove clutter and mess because it can add to a child's perception of being in chaos and out of control.
- Play music that soothes the brain & burn aromatherapy oils that calm.
- Ensure your boundaries and the kids' boundaries are clear and healthy around meals, sleep, siblings, mobiles, computer use and safety.
- Make time for play and creativity.
- Take children out into the fresh air as often as possible.
- Use quiet voices, ask politely rather than demanding and really listen to your children, without interrupting.
- Give each other foot, head or back massages, even while watching TV.
- When needed use calming, creative visualisations for everyone. Buy a CD to guide you.
Childhood cannot be hurried or children can develop poor stress regulating systems that continue right through life.
The magic of silence and stillness is something that helps shape the developing child in a positive way.
While there are many cognitive (left brain) benefits from teaching the magic of silence, there are even more emotional and social (right brain) benefits.
I believe children who can build a doorway to their own sense of value and worth will be better able to manage this chaotic rapidly changing world.
This doorway is found on the inside rather than the outside. Let's be mindful.
Maggie Dent this year published the second edition of her book Saving Our Children From Our Chaotic World: Teaching Children the Magic of Silence and Stillness. She is running a one-day course with Patrice Thomas called 'Calming Our Children and Our World' in Crows Nest, Sydney on Saturday November 20 from 9am to 3pm. Visit www.maggiedent.com