Last week I wrote about encouraging children to flex their inventive muscles, and exercise their ability for creative and imaginative thought.
My point regarding the inherent fear in spontaneous action or communication has been echoed this week in news that our young people are developing anxiety around the mere act of talking to one another.
When you stop and think about it, it’s not such a great surprise. The rise of texting as the chosen method of communication has meant that our children get used to having time to consider what they want to say. The element of on-the-spot creation is removed, and replaced by the kind of editing they are used to absorbing through so many outlets of social media.
Are we losing the ability to converse?
Well I don’t think so, but there’s no disputing the fact that many young people are feeling pressure when they are called upon to put their thoughts into words, to articulate their opinions, without preparation and in the moment.
On the other hand there is the inspiring rise of young people engaging with political and environmental issues with the kind of energy that only they can apply to a cause - it puts the rest of us to shame.
So what’s going on here and do we need to be concerned?
The important thing, as ever, is to keep the conversation open. Make sure that you engage children in discourse, show interest in what they think and feel, and actually listen to what they say. It sounds obvious, but we’re all guilty of not making enough time, enough brain space, to have a proper, focussed, stimulating chat with our youngsters.
It’s usually up to us to take to lead, and as the grown-ups, we really should be interested in how the younger generation are thinking, and where they might lead is in the future.
How often do your children get to spend time alone without any outside stimulus? When was the last time they had to draw on their own resources to entertain and motivate themselves?
Timetables for children these days can be hectic; after-school clubs, the pressures of school work, social media and other screen-based activities all vie for their attention and focus. It’s not so often that they are left alone to their own devices free from these distractions. And the same is true of us.
When was the last time you asked a child a truly profound question?
Last year, the comedian Joe Lycett wrote a Guardian column in which he mentioned asking a ten year old girl, to whom he is close, “What do you think art is?” She replied, “It’s trust. If you trust something’s good, then it is.” Brilliant. As Joe says, that is exactly what art is.
Fashion is a slippery master. It pervades almost every aspect of our lives, not just music and clothes, but attitudes, values and personality traits. These days the tenet that ‘you can achieve anything if you want it enough’ is all pervasive. Similarly I see a trend towards ‘loving yourself’ gathering momentum. Less in favour are the not-so-thrusty attributes of modesty and humility.
People-watching sure can teach you a lot. When I'm on a trip, I spend a fair amount of time observing how other guests treat the hotel staff. Some are polite, but removed, others clearly see beyond the role to the human doing the job, and some are just downright rude. I find myself wondering if there is a parallel here with how they treat children and young people.