stress in children TV

When I imagine living in a society that is afflicted with violence, war, intense poverty or starvation, I think primarily of the children who witness these hardships. I can imagine that if I were living in such conditions, I would look at the children and think, “if only the children could live in peace, if only the children could live in safety, if only the children could live without the stress of hunger and lack.” I would imagine that if children could live without these hardships, there would be hope for a better future, a future of adults who had had a happy, carefree, peace-filled childhood. I would imagine that a life like that would be heaven on earth.

When I look outside my window on our beautiful island home, I see the wonder of nature, green meadows and mountains, tall trees, blossoming flowers, blue skies. I am so grateful for the good fortune that our children have been granted to live in such a heavenly place. I am also struck by the choice that most Americans make to expose their children to violence, war and stress by allowing them to watch media and read books with violent, cynical, or wicked and therefore not age-appropriate content. Both Dr. Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Maria Montessori came to the conclusion that young children, below the age of about 7, are unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Each of them designed a curriculum to address this. Our leading brain researcher Joseph Chilton Pearce has reported that when children of any age are exposed to stressful screen watching, any programming that contains suspense or violence, their brain reacts in a “fight or flight” response and releases cortisol into the body exactly as if the event had occurred in real life. Their bodies ready themselves to deal with emergency.

Consequently, according to the theories of our well respected researchers and observers most American children are in fact undergoing the same reactions to stress in their bodies as children exposed to actual stress. I find this to be a lost opportunity and it saddens me to see this inflicted upon the children. As a child advocate, parent and early childhood educator, I look for ways to provide a childhood which is child-like. I am dedicated to facilitating an environment where children can feel secure, which allows them to remain innocent, and which diminishes stress. I am hopeful because I see so many parents, educators and community members with this same consciousness. I am grateful for the beauty to which our children are exposed daily. I pray for a happy, carefree, peace-filled childhood for all children.

May Peace surround you and your family this holiday season and always.

Image Credit: Happy-Bandits

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Julie Ybarra is a Waldorf Early Childhood Educator who teaches kindergarten at Haleakala Waldorf School in Kula. She honors the wonder of childhood and celebrates it daily with her students through an active, joyful and artistic curriculum.

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