Children or aliens?
They're texting like maniacs, are glued to social network sites, and have earphones in all the time. Then they acknowledge you but only because you're ferrying them to a myriad parties and classes.
If you think you’ve a better chance of connecting with a martian while jumping up and down in front of your child to catch their attention, no wonder it feels like you’ve spawned an alien.
How can we relate to our children, what games should we play, and what activities could we do with them to strengthen family bonds, particularly if we’re feeling boggled by the technology they enjoy, and can’t identify with, much less listen to, the music they’re interested in.
Can the generation gap be just too wide to bridge?
It was reassuring to find at time spent at Whitfield State School during lunchtime that on a very basic level, despite all we may read, there are few differences in the interests children have nowadays than years ago, and it doesn’t seem hard for their parents to get involved.
For seven-year-old Alexandra Finn, reading is a big hobby and an interest she is developing all the time.
“I read a lot, fiction mostly,” Alexandra says, with Australian writer John Marsden’s young adult book, Tomorrow When The War Began, being one of her favourites, as well as the YA dystopian science fiction series, Gone by American author Michael Grant.
Alexandra was recently involved in the Readers Cup competition run by The Children’s Book Council of Australia, in which teams of students read books and compete with each other in quizzes.
Playing netball and gossiping with friends is also high on Alexandra’s agenda.
Harmonie Larsen, aged six, places reading way up on her interests list, even taking precedence over play at school lunchtime.
Harmonie’s recent favourite is Horrible Histories.
“They are extremely funny and also a bit scary,” she says.
A love of fiction didn’t just appear from nowhere. Her mum, Jacqueline Larsen, is the author of the children’s book series, The Rainbow Necklace, and Harmonie likes to read her mum’s books as well as everything else.
She also, as her name might suggest, likes to sing harmonies too, and belongs to a choir.
Harmonie’s only indulgence in modern technology is to play iPad games.
“There’s some games I struggle with, such as division and multiplication games, but I always get them in the end,” she says.
If there’s one thing parents should look out for, it’s the quick changes in their children’s interests.
Listening to some of the students, it seems it might be hard to keep up.
Outgoing Lea Davies, aged 12, explains how fads come in and out all the time for her classmates.
“Handball was in at the start of the year,” Lea says. “Every lunch, people used to sprint and bags the squares, but it was mostly the boys though.”
Lea now favours just hanging out with her girlfriends or going to a movie.
“My group will normally go down to the oval and find a seat under a shade and talk.”
The topics of conversation?
Twilight, One Direction and Justin Bieber.
Basketball is an interest Lea shares with her dad.
“I used to go to dance classes but now I’m more into basketball,” she says, and her dad sometimes coaches her team.
“Sometimes we just go outside and shoot hoops together,” she says.
Henry Korff from Year 7 has changed from loving handball to just hanging out with friends.
“Sometimes we’ll play soccer but usually we just go to the park to shoot goals,” he says.
Computer games are high on his desire list.
“I’m kind of addicted,” Henry says. “I’ll try any type of computer game. Mum usually says homework first, then play.”
Henry’s favourite computer game is Fruit Ninja but he also likes James Bond games and playing with Nerf guns.
Lots of parents are part of their children’s play.
For Eleanor Suavi, from Year 7, netball is her passion, and it’s a joint passion she has with her mother.
“My mum plays indoor netball and I fill in for her,” Eleanor says. “It’s a mixture of boys and girls and you have to be over 13 to play.”
Eleanor also loves Twilight and says her parents know and keep up to date with “the cool things that are popular now”.
Kye Higginson, aged 8, who has a younger sister, loves handball, and loves to act.
He’s a big Lego fan too, and, like most of his contemporaries, he loves being on a computer, a passion he shares with his mum.
“I like to bug my mum off the computer so I can play Minecraft,” he says.
Kye says his parents knows the types of things he talks about the games he likes to play.
“They just know,” he says.
From his mum Jodie Higginson’s perspective, seeing her children inspired is the cue for her to get involved.
“As a parent, it’s really inspiring to see that they are passionate about something, so in our family we tend to roll with whatever inspires that passion,” she says.
And so Jodie supports Kye’s acting ambitions and his love of computers.
“He was able to use computers from about the age of one, so we bought a little tiny mouse for his tiny little hand,” she says.
Jodie says her husband is very active and plays basketball, which ties in well with her daughter’s interests.
“We also talk a lot and I like to ask them what they enjoy and we watch film clips together of the music they like, such as Justin Bieber or One Direction,” she says. “Whether I like it or not, I try to be enthusiastic about what they like and I try to encourage them to be proud of the music and the things they like to do.
“If I hear that little nibble of interest in something, I say, let’s go, let’s try it.”
So it would seem children these days are not the aliens we might have been led to believe and it’s not that difficult to find common ground with them.
Of course, there are reasons why parents find it difficult to find the time for play.
Psychologist Simone Fischer says it highly depends on what socioeconomic group the family fits into.
“Sometimes both parents are at work and the children come home to an empty home,” she says.
Children are, however, resilient, and can learn to become more independent. By the time they reach their teenage years, however, Simone believes they need their parents to talk to even more.
“If people are going to take time off, they should take it off in their kids’ teenage years,” she says.
Apart from the results of economic necessity, there have been really good changes in family dynamics in recent years.
“Fathers are spending more time with their children,” Simone says. “In my day, you’d never see them pushing a pram or changing a nappy.”
She recommends family outings are still the best way to develop parent-child relationships, rather than a myriad self-development classes for children away from the home.
“That leaves them no time to enjoy being kids,” she says. “It’s best to have family activities like community events, to get involved with sports days, and to bring them to events like football games or to places like the motocross track.”
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
The trends and interests of today’s children may not be so different from the schoolyards of yore. photo // THINKSTOCK