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Pioneering the Next Generation

What is Slow Parenting?

French parenting expert and journalist Nathalie Desanti has spent years studying the slow parenting movement and says embracing the lifestyle can have a beneficial effect on the whole family.

They are demanding, never leave your side, keep you up at night and can induce an incredible amount of stress. And we’re not talking about toddlers.

For today’s parents, smartphones have blessed us with instant gratification and information, but have also sped up the pace of our lives more than any other modern invention.

While technology was supposed to give us more time to spend on leisure and family time, we’ve only become more and more stressed and busy as a result of the relentless and demanding digital world we’ve created.

Our children compete for attention with our beeping smartphones, email ‘pings’ and social media alerts, leaving us feeling guilty, anxious and overwhelmed.

Enter “slow parenting” a concept born from the slow living movement which encourages parents to jump off the ‘busy bandwagon’ and rethink the way we raise our kids in today’s digitally-connected, fast-paced world.

And while the idea may sound blissful but too esoteric for today’s modern working parents, research is proving that swapping Formula One parenting for a push-bike alternative is not just a more pleasant way to raise kids, but it’s also crucial for their healthy development.

French parenting expert and journalist Nathalie Desanti has spent years studying the slow parenting movement and says embracing the lifestyle can have a beneficial effect on the whole family.

“Slow parenting is a new way of thinking in which children and parents share more quality time together and where stress has less and less of a place,” she explains.

Ms Desanti says rethinking our language around young children – for instance reducing our use of phrases such as “hurry up” in favour of allowing them time to complete an activity – can make a huge difference to their development and wellbeing.

“The first thing is to look at our tempo as parents, and at our children’s tempo, which of course is not the same,” she says.

“Parents tend to ask to their children to adopt their tempo, which can be stressful to a child because they are not adapted to their parents’ rhythm.”

Stress can be detrimental to brain development, with research suggesting hormones and chemicals produced by the stress response such as cortisol can destroy neural circuity and brain structures leading to future behavioural problems such as depression and anxiety, addictive tendencies and delinquency.

An encouraging, supportive environment in which empathy is practiced, on the other hand, can have profoundly positive effects on a child’s growing brain, with studies showing using empathy can increase grey matter and thicken the prefrontal cortex.

Fortunately, you don’t have to throw your smartphone in the bin and move to the country to become a ‘slow parent’.

Ms Desanti says one beneficial slow parenting technique is simply reducing the amount of structured activity time for kids, to allow for boredom. Boredom can be frustrating initially for a child but can lead to creative and imaginary play which is crucial for their development.

Empathy is another core foundation for slow parenting, where parents focus on understanding and acknowledging their child’s feelings while encouraging them to find solutions to problems independently.

Ms Desanti says there is a misconception among some parents that slow parenting is about letting a child do whatever he or she wants or trying to be their friend.

“Being an empathic parent is essential, but you also need to remain the competent adult who perfectly knows what is good for his or her child,” she says. “For example, don’t ask all the time their opinion just to be empathic, or they will think that you don’t know what is good for them.”

No matter what style of parenting you choose, Ms Desanti believes the best thing parents can offer their children is a caring home filled with love.

“The most important thing is to love and care our children, and to care for oneself!” she says. “Our children see us as an example and tend to do what we do, so being an example of love and empathy in all our relationships is the best way to make our children empathic and happy adults.”

For more tips on ways to connect with your children click here.

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