How do we really listen to kids about their needs?

Round assorted-colors plastic cases. In the center one there are several wooden colorful figurines, shaped like fish, hearts and stars.

Some like to call children our future. It’s technically true: they will most likely outlive us adults. They have more time on earth and fresher, more innovative ideas. But children are also our present. If we stick to the United Nations definition of children as under-18s (yes, it is a faulty definition, but I’ll dedicate another story to unpacking that), children represent close to a third of the world’s population. A third of our present.

While it’s true that most decisions taken today will affect children more than us adults, simply because they’ll be around for longer, decisions taken today also affect children today. Let’s think about our immediate neighbourhoods and cities. Is there space for children around where you live? Can they go out and cross the street by themselves without risking being run over by a car? Are there enough places where they can meet with their peers and play?

The latest research on play in the UK, led by Prof Helen Dodd, a member of this community, shows that children of primary school age are losing the freedom to play independently and are not allowed to play outside on their own until the age of 11 – two years older than their parents’ generation. The British Children’s Play Survey, the largest study of its kind, found another important detail: in the sample of 1,919 parents or caregivers with a child aged 5–11 years, children played for an average of three hours per day, with around half of that time being outdoors.

Let me go back to my initial question: what kind of present are we making possible for children around us? If we give priority to cars and parking places, where can children play outdoors in cities? If we build playgrounds with fences around them, are we telling children that they need to be tucked away and can only play and exist within a small, well-defined perimeter?

A child-friendl…

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5 thoughts on “How do we really listen to kids about their needs?

  1. Speaking of Hysteria, have you seen the movie with that same name? It is based on a true story, simply hilarious xD

    I love the 95cm approach. The world really looks different from that perspective!

  2. I finished Hunt, Gather, Parent a month ago. Its got its ups and its downs, like most things, but overall it was a really good book with a very interesting perspective on parenting. It would dovetail very interestingly with this piece on listening to what kids want, and I really recommend that you read it.
    I’ve not followed your Greek word of the week postings, but your posting of hystera made me think of another, hymen. Hymen is the Greek god of marriage, then applied to a tiny bit of tissue at the opening of a woman’s vagina that would be presumed to be “intact” and thus ruptured on the wedding night, showing the purity, equated to virginity, of the bride. The whole cult of and cultural trappings surrounding virginity, and the focus on a the hymen is the source of a lot of difficulties in my work. A friend who , like me, evaluates possibly sexually abused children, started a podcast she entitled “hymenology”. I’ve only listened to the first of her very early efforts, but it might be worth a listen for you and your readers.

      1. Wow, Stephen, thank you for this suggestion, hymen will go right into next week’s newsletter! Will check out the podcast too.

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