Preparing for a relocation – When to tell the Kids?

The last months before summer is that time when many people in the international community are preparing for a move. Perhaps this article for which I  was interviewed 2 years ago can give you some insights to help your children make the transition.

In addition to the timing aspect of when to tell your children about an upcoming move I would like to add that it is a very personal question. You want to avoid telling your (young) children at the latest moment. They too need time to prepare and to say goodbye. At the same time, knowing about a move too far in advance may confuse them and bring insecurity in their lives. The author of the article writes I suggested that 4-5 year olds need a 2-3 weeks advance notice before an international move. Although I can’t remember what I said at the time of the interview, I have the feeling the numbers should have been the other way around (2-3 year olds can be prepared 4-5 weeks in advance).

Here are some questions that may help you decide when to tell your children about an upcoming move:

– Is my child someone who needs plenty of preparation to feel safe, or do they generally accept smaller and bigger changes easily?

– How do you as parents feel about the impending move? If you are someone who wants to prepare every detail before your move and feel worried that there is not enough time, your child is likely to notice ‘something is up’ and it might be helpful for them to understand what it is.

– How certainare you about the move? If you know that you will be moving next year, are already looking at a new home in the new location, etc. then it could help to include your child already at an early stage. However, not knowing if, when and where to you will move can provide feelings of insecurity, for you and for your child too. In this case it can be better to wait telling your child or to consider carefully what and how you will tell your child.

Also consider how you will tell your young child; young children may not understand the language we use to explain about a move (moving is quite an abstract concept). Consider using books and other visual input to help your child understand.

Jet Sichterman – 04 May 2017

Do you want to know more about how to prepare your children for an international move?
Perhaps our parent support sessions can be helpful.

Play & Education

Before, in the blog ‘About Toys’ I already said it: play is one of the most important means of child development. Children learn and develop through their exploration of toys and games, their language, physical abilities, social skills, cultural awareness, every part of development can be addressed by play. As Paula Vergunst & I will be giving a workshop (08/11/2013) exactly on this topic, here’s a little warming up in advance.

Someone who has done a lot of research on the topics of play, child development and education is Peter Gray. Peter Gray is an evolutionary psychologist, associated with Boston College. I have met with Peter Gray on a few occasions and his knowledge about playfulness and education always impress me.  Currently I am reading his newest book called‘Free to Learn, why unleashing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self-reliant, and better students for life’. 

As a result of his own research and personal experiences with his own son, Gray became increasingly concerned about the amount of time children spent playing nowadays and the quality of that play. He spent years of his career studying childhood, childhood education and child development from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary psychologists look at why certain psychological concepts and behaviors have occurred in terms of evolution & natural selection – similar to a biologists view on the physical characteristics of species. Gray used reports from anthropologists and knowledge from history to view how children were education in different times and cultures. The results of his study are very interesting and show that our society’s view on education is by far not the most natural or pleasant option for educating children.  In fact it shows that children can – and will, if allowed to – do most of their education themselves.

SAM_0466In short, Gray saw that children in (present day) hunter gatherer societies all over the world got lots of time for free play. In fact – even adults had lots of time for free play because hunting and gathering were not as time consuming as farming (though more of a risk, you never knew if you would find food). It is assumed that hunter-gatherer societies of our ancestors were quite similar to the ones that are still around today. Which means that before agricultural periods there was no formal way of educating children and most of their education came from within; kids desire to be similar to their mums and dads. They play and act out scenes they have seen or heard of, such as how to hunt and how to take care of kids. They learn from older kids who have played it many times before. They play it so often that they know how it works halfway in puberty when they are allowed to participate in the real thing – still in a playful manner. And gradually play becomes the real thing.

Over time, perceptions of child play and education changed together with other major changes in society. Agriculture was hard work, children in these societies often needed to work too and there was not much time for play. Industrialization came with education the way we know it now, but based on strict religious beliefs that the main thing children were supposed to learn was obedience to their superiors; harsh methods were used to educate children.

© Kutt Niinepuu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Since the early twentieth century when education became mandatory in most Western countries, more and more demands are made of the education of our children; more hours at school, more homework… Next to that, children are very busy these days; going to daycare (still an adult-supervised situation) or sports (yet another one). Time for free unsupervised play is becoming more and more limited. This is one of Gray’s biggest concerns; his research shows that children educate (=learn everything there is to learn in order to be a successful person in society) themselves and adults are not supposed to interfere unless asked.

Looking back at our own childhoods, aren’t the moments of free play the moments we remember best? Aren’t these the moments we may remember as the most enjoyable, but also the moments we learned our most valued lessons?

This post was originally published on my old website on September 16th, 2013.

Of course this blog only gives a very limited view of the findings of Peter Gray, considering he wrote a whole book about it. If you’re interested, you can order his book online or in the Netherlands at the American Book Center (The Hague / Amsterdam).

Interested in the Play & Parenting Workshop? Click here to see whether it is scheduled again or ask us to present for your group/company.

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It’s not fair! – Part 2.

In my last blog, I explained how young children can only view the world from their own perspective because they have not yet developed a so called ‘theory of mind’. This is why young children have a different idea of what is fair than adults. Of course, if you’re the only one with needs and wishes, it certainly isn’t fair if you cannot have everything. When children start to understand that other people have their own unique individuality with their own thoughts, needs and wants, children start to see fair as something that involves others as well. Usually the rule of thumb to determine fairness becomes ‘sharing equally’. However, this still differs from what adults consider as fair. So what is this next stage in development of the concept of fairness all about?

Thanks to ~Masscreation

Fairness for adults
After developing the theory of mind, children seem to use a rule to determine what is fair, namely ‘sharing equally’ or equality.  In many situations, this rule is used by adults as well. When two people compete over one cookie, let’s break it and both eat half of it. But in other situations our concept of fairness is more complex.

For example, in earlier times people would get ‘an eye for an eye’, which literally meant that if you did something bad to someone, the same bad would be done to you. Nowadays, most of us do not believe this is fair anymore and we have a judicial system with its courts and prisons to help us understand what is fair in a criminal situation.

Another example are the social services. Most adults do believe in some form of social services, whether it is for child benefit, for the elderly, for the sick or the poor. Many of us will benefit from social services at least once in their lives. Considering fairness as the rule of equality, this hardly seems fair. How can it be fair if some (the poor) get money for free whereas others (the not-so poor) have to work very hard to earn their wages? So what does guide our thoughts when the rule of equality does not apply? The influential theory of Kohlberg’s moral stages of development might help us understand.

Kohlberg’s moral stages of development
Kohlberg said that children when they grow up move through different stages of moral development. These stages are tied up with the concept of fairness, or perhaps we should say ‘justice’, even before the theory of mind is fully developed. Kohlberg defined six stages, and believed that most people would move through the first four stages during childhood. However, the fifth and sixth stage would not be reached by everyone and Kohlberg himself never found enough people who had reached the sixth stage to prove this stage was actually real.

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© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  1. Preconventional morality: during this stage, children let their ideas of right and wrong (and fair and unfair) be decided by the punishments or rewards it produces. Taking everything must be unfair, because it produces punishment. Sharing equally is often rewarded in young children, so must be right.
  2. Individualism and exchange: children in this stage may have already developed (parts of a) theory of mind, and know other people have other perspectives. However, self interest is still a strong guide in their reasoning about morality. The four year old who thought giving away his third train was unfair because then he only had two might have found himself in this stage.
  3. Good interpersonal relationships: children usually enter this stage when they are also entering their teenage years. Relationships become more important and this is what guides thinking about fairness and justice. Somethingunlawful might still be seen as fair when the intentions were good, such as in Kohlberg’s own example; stealing medicine might be seen as fair when they are stolen with the intention to save another’s life.
  4. Maintaining the social order: in this stage, people become concerned about society and maintaining social order. We should uphold the law and use democratic principles to change things that are ‘wrong’ in the law, because this is how we all agreed to do things so doing it this way is fair and just.
  5.  Social contract and individual rights: this stage continues upon the previous, but now people start to look at the wider picture. Sometimes laws and individual rights may be conflicting; which perspective should we take now? People at this stage invented social services and welfare, and are the ones to believe in it and uphold it, whereas people in stage 4 merely feel that social services are ‘fair’ because they are part of our social order which should be upheld.
  6. Universal principles: Kohlberg believed in a sixth stage in which people are guided by universal principles in their moral reasoning and their beliefs about fairness and justice. However, he could not find enough people who had actually reached this stage to further define and prove the existence of this stage.

What is fair?
By now we have seen that at least two influential developmental theories seem to play a role in the development of the concept of fairness. No wonder that we at times cannot comprehend children’s beliefs that ‘it is not fair!’, or even other adult’s. So the question remains; what is fair? It could be something different to all of us. I think it is important to keep this in mind in your communication with others, children especially. They are not lying when they say something is not fair, or looking for attention, they really believe so. Perhaps a little bit of extra explanation and support can help them overcome this feeling and help them learn to take another perspective.

This post was originally published on my old website on Sep 2nd, 2013.

For more reading about Kohlberg’s stages of Moral Development, here’s an interesting chapter!

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