Happy days for children

#100 Happy Days 4 Kids by Arlene Naughton and Lorraine Lynch

"CHILDREN'S GREATEST enemies are adults," Roald Dahl stated at one point during his visit to Galway for a children’s festival in the late 1980s. “All they ever hear from them is 'Don’t do this, you can’t do that, be quiet, go to bed, do this, do that, do the other'. This was towards the end of the 'children should be seen and not heard' era.

Since then, there has been a marked change in the general adult attitude to children and more and more parents now see them, not just as daughters and sons, but as full individual human beings, each unique in his/her own right. Realising this fact is one thing, being able to deal with it is another, and in fact today’s parents generally lack the skills or knowledge to do so.

The recent publication of #100 Happy Days 4 Kids is an effort to bridge this gap. Written by Arlene Naughton and Lorraine Lynch, the first paragraph of the introduction explain bow the book came to be written:

“The idea for this book emerged directly from interactions with children and parents who all presented with the same types of needs. Children strive for secure attachments with their care givers, which in turn gives them the solid base to navigate their social worlds and explore their identities from. To enhance the way a children’s development is supported, parents need to be equipped with fundamental parenting skills that rarely are described adequately to parents”.

The vast majority of parents can relate to this last sentence. The two authors met while both were involved with the ISPCC. Naughten was later to found Sugru – Child Development & Contextual Services, where she offers professional services to suit the developmental and therapeutic needs of children and families. Lynch is Sugru's head of research, and a doctoral research fellow in the University of Limerick. Her primary role is in forging new ways of assisting those with neurodevelopmental disorders, using a holistic approach through social support and individualised programmes.

The introduction continues: “The more children and parents we have worked with in a therapeutic context, the more convinced we have become that simple communication, mindfulness, and understanding within the family unit could have prevented a substantial amount of difficulties for children and young people."

The book is a bright and cheerful road map for parents to help them fulfil their status of parenthood, to create a happier and healthier family environment, and to watch their children become confident and strong in body and mind. It is laid out in 99 days (on the 100th day the mantra is “Wow! You’ve Made it” ) in which the parents are asked to set a specific task for themselves and their children from “#kids day 1 # Active Listening. Today I will listen, really listen, to everything my child has to say” to “#kids day 99 # Our Family Decision. Involve your children in making a decision that is important for your family”. Then the parent is told “What do I need to do?” to achieve the specific task and “Why am I doing this?”

Each one of these tasks is set in a positive mode with the underlying intent of opening the doors of communication between parent and child and keeping those doors open with the parent becoming more actively involved in the child’s life and the child in the parent’s. The child becomes gradually more active in the family decisions and the parent more aware of the child’s strengths and weaknesses.

While most of these tasks are based on common sense, others will raise the parental eyebrow. A personal favourite is “kids day 59 # Walk in the Rain” and the reason why: “Aside from being physically advantageous for a growing child embracing the weather and taking sufficient natural outdoor exercise is also psychologically beneficial, with a significant endorphin-release resulting in that ‘feel-good’ factor’”.

For the bewildered parent who suddenly realises his/her child is no longer a baby but growing in mind and body, and doesn’t know how to deal with it, this book can be a useful, not to say essential, tool in enhancing the child’s happiness and the family’s well-being.

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