In this new year, 2020 and the decade it follows should give time to pause and visualize what you would hope and like to accomplish for your child. From newborn to adulthood, no matter what point in time, there are only a good two decades of constant development and nurturing that we as parents have before a child becomes independent - able to fend for his or her being.
We often use school as a growth and activity track - because suddenly, a pre-Kindergarten child is a junior high schooler in a blink of an eye (or decade). We always hear veteran parents say - "hold on to them, kids grow fast". Indeed.
In the next year and decade, let's discuss a few items we would like to see for today's children:
General health: With the sudden onset of politically-oriented narratives on vaccinations, I still know and believe that vaccines are essential. From polio, to meningitis, to HPV to the flu strains - it is hard to think about not giving our young, vulnerable youth the protection needed from these pathogens. We aim to protect and prolong their lives.
Puberty happens, and acne will be the least of our problems. Prepare for continuous general nutrition, physical activity and elements that will help the immune system, as well as their musculoskeletal and neurological development. More water, more sleep.
Take them for regularly scheduled vaccinations. Get back to regularly scheduled medical and dental check ups.
Mental health: This generation is a more vulnerable and more susceptible generation to mental health issues. Many studies point out to overinformation and malinformation via social media and other digital platforms. The great political divide of opposing views from climate change to racial and gender issues around the country and the planet have created chaos down to the individual child who reads and is exposed to such dialogue at every waking moment.
Children are also less reliant on direct human interaction and are often exposed to the mirages created by the internet age. Let them play outside! Talk to them. Communicate. Eat together. Go out and give the smartphone a rest. Believe in therapy and consult as needed.
Depression is very real and comes in many forms. It needs to be addressed. Offer daily affirmations.
Social health: This generation has seen less physical bullying at school and the schoolyard but has seen a drastic increase in verbal and cyberbullying. Gender-bias and racial crimes are also rising geometrically across the country. Exposure to expectation of debt, crime/death and household stress continue to traumatize our youth with little remedy in the near future. Parents, friends and teachers may be their only reliable refuge for decompression. Bad actors and social media elements are not going to help much. Speak to your child. Ask about the people they are with in school and outside of school. Stay involved.
Make plans with them. Seek professional help. Be a trustworthy best friend, again.
Other vices: We have seen the decline in cigarette smoking but the rise of e-cigarettes/ vaping. We have seen the decline in underage drinking but the rise of overdose accidents from artificial substances/ drugs.
Vehicular accidents are still high. Teach by example (i.e. do not text, drink or use the phone while driving). Next time you drive with a child in the backseat - offer some driving courtesy tips. Road rage is real.
Video games have become more sophisticated, but all the more still addicting. Fortnite and other FPS games will continue to flourish. Online gambling will creep into our children's lives if not checked.
The good news: Our youth are more informed these days. They have the potential to live much healthier lives through exercise, diet and abstinence than the previous generations. Teenage pregnancies have declined continuously in the last two decades. Sexually transmitted infections (STI's) still abound but there is broader education and better treatment for them.
They are our future and will hopefully protect themselves, all other generations and the planet. What we do this year, and for the next decade for and with them could help ensure that notion.