Last night I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dr.Gabor Maté. I must admit, I’ve had a wee bit of an academic crush on Dr.Maté for quite a while now. His calm yet insistent presentation of some frightening realities of the current state of adult-child relationships seemed to be well received by the sold-out audience.
What is important to children, students, teens, youth and adults? Relationship-attachment. Life in the first world sees adults spending less time developing strong adult-child attachment relationships. The consequences of this are that children are attaching to their peers. Kids are giving kids the emotional relations they are hardwired to seek out instead of adults. Where we used to have many adults that children could seek out for contact, we no longer live that way in North America. Where we used to spend a lot of time with children, we now spend less. Daycare, playdates, sleepovers, technology are all ways that children and youth form primary attachments with peers rather than adults.
Where does this get us? It gets us to a place where we are seeing higher instances of mental health diagnoses in children and youth, more acting out behaviour. Dr. Maté concludes that it is a lack of solid child-adult attachment relationships that is the problem.
Rather than offer a host of solutions, Dr. Maté said that we need to begin to be aware that this is a problem. There is no point in seeking solutions without an acknowledgement that this is a problem.
We need to first wrap our heads around what the problem looks like, look into the consequences and effects of forming primary attachments with peers over adults and then start to find solutions that fit.
Looking for more info? Pick up a copy of Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté (available at Armchair Books in Whistler Village).
“If you look at childhood in North America right now, we can see that it’s seriously under threat. We can see that in the numbers of kids being diagnosed with all sorts of behavioural, developmental and mental problems, in the millions of kids that are being medicated, in the statistics that show that as many as 50% of American adolescents meet the diagnostic criteria for one or another mental health disorder at some time during their teenage years, we can see it in the frustration of parents who believe and experience that they’ve lost the power to somehow bring up their kids according to their own values, the impotence that many parents experience in the face of the culture, terrible situations in the schools where kids aren’t learning how to read and write as they did decades ago, and then in the aggression in the culture and the drug use and so on. We really have to ask what’s going on. ”
And a shout out to Whistler Community Services Society, Squamish Savings and DPAC for bringing Dr.Maté to Whistler at an affordable rate (complete with childminding).