How to encourage a child’s biophilia

How to encourage a child’s biophilia

The sight of children lugging large heavy bags while sprinting to school reveals how their schedules are dictated by aptitudes considered important by the modern world: tight class schedules, sports and exercise, homework, and chores. But not the natural world.

These school activities overlook the human body’s need for natural surroundings and undermine the importance of time spent outdoors. World Environment Day on 5 June is a time to consider teaching our children the importance of creating and protecting green spaces, to support their learning abilities and emotional manageability. It is never too early to start.

The human brain is at its most fertile as a child, and is capable of adapting and absorbing knowledge at an exceptional pace. It is also true that this stage of development is the most defining time for growing children.

The quality of a child’s experience (positive or negative) helps shape how their brains develop. Just as negative experiences such as being exposed to traumatic life events define a child’s perspective and personality, positive experiences like spending quality time outdoors can help boost brain development. The same study also demonstrates the positive benefits of spending time in nature for children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Even a simple walk in nature spurs concentration levels in children. Besides playing a key role in cognitive development, exposure to nature also has wide-ranging emotional, physical, and physiological benefits for children which is the reason outdoor learning education programs have started gaining popularity in recent years.

Physical activity and unstructured play are also important factors contributing to a child’s growth and development. While one fulfils the body’s physical needs, unstructured play triggers the creative side of the brain.

‘Forest Floors’, a Scandinavian concept, spurs early childhood development by recreating small patches of ‘forest’ in the playground. Just a little grass and some mud expose children to good microbes. If a small patch of transplanted forest floor can have this impact, imagine what consistent exposure to our natural surroundings could do.

There is a strong connection between nature and the overall growth process of children, which is why incorporating environmental education and psychology into the national curriculum as a primary subject has a compelling justification. While there may be a growing consensus among parents that children can gain knowledge from watching nature documentaries and working on conservation through the classroom, these second-hand adventures will never hold the same sensory and emotional impact as childhood discoveries beneath a moss-covered brick, or a pile of dried leaves.

According to Wilson’s (1984) well-regarded ‘ biophilia hypothesis ,’ humans are born with an innate affinity for nature. It asserts that human dependence on nature is not limited to material and physical sustenance but […]

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Get Happy: The Science Of Emotions And How To Harness Them For Happiness

Get Happy: The Science Of Emotions And How To Harness Them For Happiness

Profile of a head with layers of color showing importance of managing emotions for happiness. It’s been 16 months of turmoil and chances are you’ve had plenty of emotions roiling within. From frustration, grief or anxiety to relief, elation or anticipation, you’ve likely felt a range of sentiments throughout the pandemic—and this will continue.

But beyond just having all the feels, understanding, monitoring and managing your emotions contributes significantly to happiness and success in life . It’s more important than you might think, and there’s science to prove it.

Consider all the ways emotions matter and can help you move forward as you transition back to something closer to your pre-pandemic life and renew, refresh and (perhaps) reinvent your approaches. Don’t Judge

Our happiness can be negatively impacted if we judge our own emotions—whether they are “correct” or whether we should be feeling them. Sometimes we evaluate ourselves harshly: In a sad situation, we may believe we should be more wrecked, or in a joyous setting, we may believe we should be experiencing greater jubilation. Or we may think we’re more stressed than we should be. In fact research with 2,324 people across eight countries and published by the American Psychological Association found when we negatively evaluate our emotions, we are more likely to feel depressed or unhappy. Undergoing a range of emotions is natural and our experiences are unique. We can benefit by not being too hard on ourselves about certain ideals or how we think we “should” be feeling.

It’s also natural to believe we should be happy all the time and this too, is a myth. Additional research published by the American Psychological Association finds stress and anxiety aren’t always bad. Sometimes they alert us to danger or to something we need to change. Of course, if they become overwhelming or damaging, we should seek help. But it’s normal to feel ups and downs in life. When you worry about being worried or feel depressed about feeling depressed, it only exacerbates negative feelings. The concept of happiness inflation (or scientifically, “hedonistic adaptation”) describes the belief that our happiness should be constantly increasing, but this isn’t realistic. Life ebbs and flows as do our reactions to it. Accepting this natural course contributes toward overall happiness by removing the pressure to be always-positive or constantly-content. Be Authentic

The ability to be yourself and express yourself fully also is critical to happiness, and many believe the pandemic has shown a light on emotional health. As my colleague Marianne says, “Now, we’re allowed to start talking about how we feel.” In fact, a study at National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found children in families which were more expressive […]

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Tatler Experts' Corner: My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

As part of the Tatler SOS Experts’ Corner, we delve into the subject of legal arrangements surrounding relationships. Here, Adèle Ballantyne from Eleda Consultancy shares her advice on managing a peaceful divorce without causing harm to your children.

When we have, as children, witnessed our parent’s painful relationship breakdown, it often leaves deep emotional scars that can impact on our own adult relationships.

If we then find ourselves in a situation where our own relationship has irrevocably broken down, fear for our children’s future happiness is kindled. We may find ourselves trying hard to ensure that they don’t have to experience what we went through.

As we begin the process of relationship breakdown, there is often a plethora of advice from family, friends and eventually legal professionals and certainly in the past the emphasis has been on ‘the fight’; who gets what?

Often it is the children, who as parents we want to protect, that inadvertently suffer and end up in the middle of that fight.

With the imminent advent of ‘No Fault’ divorce and the media coverage of celebrities who have chosen a kinder way to go their separate ways (think Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele), the narrative around how we separate is changing.

So, just how do we separate without causing emotional harm to our children?

INFORMATION, EDUCATION, TRAINING and SUPPORT are the four key elements to getting it right for you and your children.

When you get together as a couple, you never imagine that you will end up separating and so if it happens you find yourself in new territory. It can be so hard to know whether what you are doing is right.

Firstly, there is no hard and fast rule as to how you disconnect, every couple is unique and how you uncouple is entirely up to you.

Like most major decisions in life, we rarely make them without getting INFORMATION. So, get as much as you can from professionals who understand the process and who have much experience working with separating couples. The more information you have means you have more choices.

When we embark upon something new albeit an evening class or a job, generally we need EDUCATION to help us succeed. There are many professionals out there who can provide much needed understanding for newly separating parents. Somewhere, out there is the right professional for you. Someone who will help you to understand, not only the dynamics of relationship breakdown, but can provide you with coping strategies to get you through what might possibly be one of the most important changes in yours and the lives of your children.Every day we hear about individuals who jump out of their comfort zone and take on a life changing challenge, maybe competing in […]

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Police interventions for emotionally distressed children on the rise in New York City public schools, analysis finds

Police interventions for emotionally distressed children on the rise in New York City public schools, analysis finds

An NYPD car in front of a Brooklyn public school in 2015. Police interventions for emotionally distressed students have tracked upwards over the past four years, a new analysis found. Spencer Platt / Getty Images Police interventions for children facing mental health crises at New York City public schools have increased, with Black students and students with disabilities disproportionately affected, according to a new analysis of city data from 2016 to 2020.

In a report released Thursday, Advocates for Children of New York analyzed more than 12,000 “child in crisis” incidents — a New York City Police Department label for instances in which a student in emotional distress is removed from class and then transported to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. The analysis, an update to the nonprofit’s 2017 brief , found an upward trend in such police interventions over the past four years.

And, mirroring the 2017 report, the data showed stark racial divides: In the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, more than a quarter of police interventions involved Black boys, even though they account for only 13% of the public school population. Similarly, Black girls also were overrepresented, showing up in 20% of the interventions despite accounting for only 12% of enrollment. In 92% of cases where students were handcuffed, the student was Black or Latino, and all 33 children between the ages of 5 and 7 who were handcuffed during the last four years were students of color, according to the report.

“When you look at data like this, how can you deny that there is systemic racism?” said David Kirkland, executive director of the New York University Metro Center, who was not involved with the report.

That a 5-year-old child would be placed in handcuffs is “unconscionable,” said Kirkland. “If these kinds of punishments were heaped upon the backs of advantaged and privileged students, we wouldn’t tolerate it,” he added. “We would move towards common sense policy solutions, much like the recommendations offered [in the report].”

The report comes at a time of racial reckoning across the country, as some school districts have taken significant measures to address over-policing of students of color. The authors of the report are calling for an elimination of all police and police infrastructure from schools citywide.

They said the NYPD is ill-equipped to respond to students’ social, emotional and mental health needs. New York City currently employs about 5,300 officers as NYPD school safety agents. This number has increased about 65% since 1998, when, under Mayor Rudy Guiliani, control of school safety was transferred to the NYPD. In June 2020, the Mayor announced that by June 2022, the education department would regain control over the school safety agents.

Responding to the report, the education department […]

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Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience

Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience

Children from low socio-economic background lack the essential skills to cope up with emotional and financial instability caused by poverty. Currently, 128 million children are enrolled in the Indian public education system. These children live in poverty, with most having a household income of USD two or less a day.

Their vulnerabilities lead to reduced attentiveness, lack of curiosity, demotivation, powerlessness, shame and anger. These factors result in reduced motivation to learn, relationship building skills and emotional resilience. Apart from affecting their academic performance, this also takes a toll on their mental and emotional well-being, overall productivity and life choices. More specifically, this makes them less likely to pursue higher education, decrease employability and disrupt their positive mental health.

Children from the low socio-economic background in India generally lack the resources to access private education and rely rather on public education. Within such systems, at the government and the teacher level, there is a general alignment on the need to focus on the holistic improvement of underprivileged children.

However, the government and the teachers currently lack the expertise to equip children with the necessary skills to tackle the ill-effects of poverty, cope up with their reality and go on to become productive and healthy lifelong learners. As a result, there is an alarming gap between the skills our most vulnerable children need and the skills that the public education system provides.

It is in the aforementioned context that Richa Gupta, Vedant Jain and Malika Taneja founded Labhya Foundation, an educational non-profit that enables children from low socio-economic backgrounds with necessary skills to cope with the ill-effects of poverty and become life-long learners through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions at scale. The founders themselves came from the realities of social adversity, financial instability and emotional distress. They had to cope with their realities of financial and emotional instability at a young age. However, there was a clear understanding that their journeys had been driven by unique opportunities and access that not all children from low socio-economic backgrounds have. This understanding drove Labhya Foundation’s inception in 2017 and continues to define its mission, vision and work through the years.

SEL is the process of exploring one’s emotions, maintaining healthy relationships and understanding one’s role and purpose in the long term. It is considered one of the most powerful tools for social change and poverty reduction: every USD invested in SEL programmes yields USD 11 in lifelong gains in health, education, and employment. (Columbia University)

Labhya Foundation partners with state governments to co-create localised statewide SEL programmes for all children enrolled in public schools of partner states. Through these programmes, they co-create a 30-minute daily SEL class or “Happiness Class” for all students between grades K-8.

For effective co-creation […]

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How can we save our kids from screen addiction, which soared during the pandemic?

How can we save our kids from screen addiction, which soared during the pandemic?

Amir, a seven years old child, shows violent behavior and angry outbursts when his mother, Nour, refuses to let him watch TV or play on his iPad. Moreover, he does his virtual homework only if his mother allows him to spend at least five hours straight on screens. Amir’s mother, Nour, told Enab Baladi that even on special family occasions, her children spend a significant part of their playtime with their peers on screens amid the absence of traditional children’s games, which include physical activities.

In the past, TV stations used to broadcast children’s cartoons and shows within a scheduled period of time, commensurate with the school education systems in each country, in an attempt to minimize the negative side effects of too much-unorganized screen time. Unfortunately, the new digital devices, which display their content 24 hours a day, thanks to the available access to the internet, undermined efforts to monitor time spent staring at screens. Children can use technology, turning it into a habit that can be practiced at any time and without limits. Moreover, the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and the shutdown of traditional schools accelerated the embracement of digital learning immensely. Thus, children’s screen time soared during the pandemic.

Pediatric psychiatrist Alaa Daly told Enab Baladi that children’s misuse of technology—children often use technology for playing video games and watching videos— poses great dangers to their mental health, especially at young ages, the stage when the children are developing their language and social skills in order to interact and communicate with others.

Children’s mental health is also affected by the overuse of technology. Video games, in particular, have a harmful effect on their attention and concentration. While playing video games, children are completely detached from their surroundings. In other words, they cannot focus on their daily life activities, including physical ones, or connect with their families appropriately.

Prolonged TV viewing and digital game playing also inhibit the child’s ability to communicate and interact with other children, which is essential at this age. Excessive screen time may also lead to depression, anxiety, addictive behavior regarding the internet, sensitivity, anger outbursts, separation from reality, and lack of acceptance of real-life and interaction with its events. Alternative solution

Pediatric psychiatrist Alaa Daly said that one of the methods to mitigate potential risk factors for children, including their spending too much time on digital screens, is to find other non-screen activities for children to become involved. This means extra parent-child bonding activities. Parents should spend more quality time with their children; they should communicate with their children openly and effectively, carry out at-home activities, and minimize the amount of time children […]

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