A new baby, winter fun and the challenges of modern parenting.

It’s been a while since my last post, moving back and forth between Austria and New Zealand plus being pregnant and having a growing toddler who is full of ever growing energy has taken its toll on my writing time.

Maya turned 2 in November and only 2 weeks later, little Lara arrived. Lots of snow accompanied her birth, in fact we barely made it to the hospital in time and she was born only 10 minutes after arrival at the maternity ward. We would have much preferred a home birth like we had with Maya but since Lara had decided to arrive 1 month early, this was not an option. Luckily our local hospital has a very intimate and friendly setting (not that I would have noticed in the short time before birth!).

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Lara was strong and healthy from the start and within a week we did first little walks outside and soon the first cross country skiing which is almost easier than walking in deep snow! After a couple of months, our first skitour with her followed, as usual warm and bundled up in my most used baby item, the carrier!

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Even Maya is still loving to be in the carrier, but it certainly turns into a good workout for the person carrying her! It allows us to take her to places that are unreachable with stroller or sled and join some of our fun instead of being left at home and somebody having to stay home with her.

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Cross-country skiing with Maya

There are days though, where getting the kids outside is an authentic challenge. Not really for them, because they are always up for it, but often it feels like an endless task to get two kids dressed and ready for the cold, just to be confronted that when everybody is ready in full ski suits, either the older one needs the toilet or the younger one needs milk and by the time you are all ready again it’s almost dark!

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A few months ago I read a fabulous and mind opening article by Victoria Prooday, a Toronto occupational therapist and blogger specializing in child brain development and neuroplasticity. She cited some alarming statistics about skyrocketing childhood depression, ADHD and teen suicide rates. Calling it a silent tragedy, she attributed the problem to an epidemic of well-meaning but bad parenting.

In her own words, she thinks that:

“Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

Instead, children are being served with:

  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments”

Luckily she also gives us a few keys of how to fix the problem:

“Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.

  • Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
  • Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
  • Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
  • Play one board game a day. 
  • Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
  • Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom

Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:

  • Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.

Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:

  • Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
  • Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
  • Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.

Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:

  • Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
  • Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
  • Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.”

I think this is a great reminder of the challenges of modern family life, even for outdoorsy and nature loving parents. I liked it so much that I printed it out and hung it up in the toilet to be constantly reminded on how to improve our parenting and not get comfortable and choose the easy way.

Which gets us back to where I started – in winter even we struggle sometimes to get the kids out because it just seems SO much effort. But it is SO important, and you do notice a change in your kid immediately that confirms it. So even if it’s easier, safer or more comfortable to stay indoors, make an effort and get out there, be it summer or winter, sun or rain. It will pay off with happier kids and therefore happier parents 🙂

Enjoy a little bit of fresh air and nature every day!

Here is the full article and some photos of creative winter fun with two little kids!

 

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