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Published on July 21st, 2019 | by The Town Crier


Have We Returned to a Victorian Era Where Children are Seen But Not Heard?

By Ian Soars, CEO, Fegans

Fegans works with hundreds of children in our therapy rooms every week. The key thing our therapists do with these incredibly vulnerable children is to listen. Listen, absorb, be interested and really engage. So that the child feels heard. And because the child feels heard, they feel valued. And because they feel valued, they begin to feel OK.

What has this to do with the Victorian era?

One of the key parenting mantras of the Victorian era was that children should be seen and not heard. In other words, rather like a piece of porcelain on a shelf, they should be observed and even admired… but not engaged with.

Over the years we rightly rejected this culture. We learnt to value our children, play with them, engage with them and listen to them. As a Victorian reformer charity, Fegans placed children in the centre of family, and when necessary took them in our orphanages.

But as a nation, are we unwittingly going back to an era that took so much reform to move away from?

Today, for very different reasons, we are facing underlying issues of children being seen but not heard. It is a common sight to see a child absorbed in their phones for hours. Does this mean we have gone backwards 150 years to a time when we can see our children… but not hear them? 

Are we really spending enough time engaging with our children?

We know that families are busy, that parents are working hard and doing the very best they can. We know that technology can be a resource and tool that benefits the whole family – for education, for information and for entertainment. So we don’t want to join in with the relentlessly judgemental chorus telling parents to whip the tablet from the hands of their children. That said, we also know the benefits, to both parent and child, of connection.

Family life is about balance and navigating changes together. Whilst you’re trying to control screen time, with all the very best intentions, make sure to look at the calendar together and check there are pockets of listening time available. As with so many issues, the solution is connection.

So as we approach the school summer holidays, rather than focusing on reducing tech time, how about a family commitment to increasing connection time? A family date, once a week, for a board game? A special 10 minutes, every day, with your child – both of you off screens, both of you together? How about a family walk, to blow off the cobwebs (leaving phones at home)? Or for an older child a weekly coffee date?

Fegans has championed childhood since 1870, and continues today, by placing children at the centre of their families and making sure every child is heard.

Fegans has created a free Summer Survival Guide in collaboration with its professional counsellors and parent support workers. The guide is full of parenting tips and ideas for entertaining children on a budget. It also contains handy worksheets and craft ideas which children and parents can complete together. As well as being fun to do, the activities have been especially designed to open-up discussions about feelings and emotions and encourage gadget-free, one-on-one time over the holidays.  Fegans’ Summer Survival Guide can be accessed free of charge (or with an optional donation to the charity) from www.fegans.org.uk/parent-hub

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