Photo by Jeremy Ellsworth

You’ve heard the expression – “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Most sources claim it’s an ancient African proverb but the origin is debatable. One thing is for sure though. Although valid, it is a saying rooted in an era that was much different than our world today.

Centuries ago, children grew up in hunter-gatherer societies. Children were carried everywhere and never left alone. They felt secure and safe as they were often in the company of several adults in their tribe or village. Families relied primarily on their biological instincts to raise their children. There were no books or technology. Kids thrived on hi-touch instead of hi-tech.

Today we’ve moved away from hunter-gatherer tendencies. We value individualism. Most homes consist of a nuclear family with kids spending hours outside of the home at school and activities. Kids seem to be influenced more by each other than by adults. Instead of relying on instincts, we utilize technology to parent, to connect with others from a physical distance, and to protect ourselves.

We keep in touch more easily than ever but are we also, in some ways, losing touch?

Technology has enabled us to address disease, live longer, and make advancements as a culture. However, our kids seem more troubled and medicated than ever. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.” Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Research shows nearly half of our nation’s children (approximately 35 million) have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).

Dr. Gabor Maté, physician and expert on childhood development, believes there is a connection.

“…the human brain does not develop on its own…[it] depends very much on the environment. And the essential condition for the physiological development of these brain circuits that regulate human behavior, that give us empathy, that give us a social sense, that give us a connection with other people, that give us a connection with ourselves, that allows us to mature—…is the presence of emotionally available, consistently available, non-stressed, attuned parenting caregivers.” Dr. Gabor Maté

Dr. Maté’s book, Hold On to Your Kids, co-authored with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, discusses ways parents can “reattach” to their kids after losing influence due to today’s trends and cultural shifts. It is a must read for all parents.

Hold On to Your Kids emphasizes how crucial the parent-child relationship is. A conclusion that can be made is that relationships are the most effective intervention point when it comes to behavior. This can be applied at home and at school. A child will thrive and learn best within the nurturing and attunement of a caregiver or adult rather than being shamed and excluded for a period of time. We come to realize kids need more time-IN and less time-OUT.

It’s evident that we need to Keep Kids Close.  Our kiddos need a secure base in order to launch confidently into the world.

They need a base they can (and want to) rely on when they need guidance and support. At Project Bond, we started the #KeepKidsClose movement in order to highlight and encourage ways parents and professionals can bring kids IN.

It’s time our instincts took a front row seat. It’s time, once again, for our kids to have their village.

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