Lifestyles

Consult a Counsellor: Getting kids outside

I work part-time and feel concerned about what our kids are going to do with their time this summer. They spend so much time on computers, TV and their cell phones these days. Even the young ones! I'm looking for some ideas of ways to get them doing other things and being outside. Please....any suggestions?

Thank you for your query. I understand your concern. This is a very big issue that you bring up. Technology has become such a focus in our lives. It is extremely useful, but we need to keep space and time for many other aspects of our lives. The core factors are face-to-face human connection and interactions with the natural world. These are vital links to our well-being.

There is a term used these days – Nature Deficit Disorder. It's a very real problem. Our world has changed. Our fears have shifted. Our attitudes have, in some ways, re-focused. We don't all freely send our kids outdoors anymore. The percentage of our day that is spent on technology, in one form or another, has increased. Our children need specific and age-appropriate guidelines to assist in keeping some balance.

Living in the Comox Valley, we have such a variety of amazing out-door spaces to go and explore. We have beaches, parks, mountains, and everything in-between. Take full advantage of what our environment has to offer. We, as adults, are continually setting an example for our children, whatever their age. We can demonstrate how time spent outdoors really does energize and rejuvenate us.

The other aspect of nature that I'd like to emphasize is that of literally playing/creating with natural objects. For example, use a stick to draw a circle (you can call it a Mandala) in the sand or dirt and fill it in, with others or on your own. Make patterns with stones, leaves, twigs, or anything else you can find outdoors. The combined group effort is rewarding in at least two ways: the social interaction and the handling of natural objects while out at the beach or the park. This can be a very soothing and nurturing experience. Hours of quality time can occur without a thought to technology!

Then, just lie on the grass and watch the clouds roll by. Daydream! Breathe in the fresh air. Boredom can be a blessing. It can provide an opportunity for getting the imagination going! You and your children, whatever their ages, will be genuinely rejuvenated as you soak in summer and relish the freedom of time and space.

I understand that what I just described might not appeal to everyone. There are numerous ways to enjoy time outdoors, away from technology. Keeping a journal for the summer is one good way. Journals (or notebooks) can be a place to write about experiences, sketch pictures of places you've been and special things you've seen throughout your summer holidays. This can be a place to glue the ticket from the ferry ride to Quadra or the music festival you just attended all together. Anything goes. It's your special place to express and focus.....a very healthy, non-technical activity that can be done on your own or with a friend or two.

So, in a nutshell, I'm encouraging quality time outdoors, creative ways of connecting with others and with nature, and a venue for on-going expression of your feelings and experiences. Summer is here. Enjoy!!

To ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail  info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead, Sara-Lynn Kang and Carolyn Howard at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.