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Never Outside: An alarming new abuse.
Never Outside: An alarming trend of psychological abuse
Recently my husband and I took a ride after dinner through his old stompin’ ground East Greenbush. The burbs were empty by 7:00. The driveways were full of cars but there were empty backyards with empty swing sets. It quickly reminded me of a situation a few years ago. I was visiting a friend on my lunch break and we heard children playing in the upstairs apartment over her. We heard these children many times but never saw them, not once. Her son would often go knock on the door and invite them to play. The father would immediately demand the kids to close the door claiming flies were getting in. When I reported this to the school principle she explained that there is a trend, an alarming number of children are never let outside. I thought of a ten year old student who told me she had never been to the beach. She confided that her mother was afraid of ticks. We might think of these folks as odd balls but, they are growing in number.
Here is a classic example of this abuse. A woman’s child was invited to a summer birthday party. The mother does everything she can to get out of it. She shows up for the party late with a well wrapped overly expensive gift. She complains about time and how tired she is, and mosquitos constantly. She douses her daughter with bug spray until she gets it into her child’s eyes. When the child cries the mother claims her daughter is overtired and leaves. A neighbor discloses the child has not been out of the house for two weeks.
At this very moment there are countless numbers of children and pets being held captive in their homes forced to stay indoors on a regular basis. Once I reported a day care director who was telling parents the children were going outside every single day when in fact they were not. Vitamin D deficiency is a serious illness and children who are kept indoors are more likely to have this condition because we get vitamin D from the sun. These children are suffering emotionally. How can you swing on a swing, learn to ride a bike, or make friends if you can never go outdoors? These children and pets suffer psychologically and physically. I have found these children to be argumentative, defiant, and lacking social skills. Most of all I have found them to be lonely. Very, very lonely!
Educators, here are the signs. I have found these children to be depressed, anxious, and have unhealthy eating patterns. They may have little knowledge of common plants and animals. I have known children who do not know what a dandelion is or a milkweed. They may be afraid of bees, flies, ticks, and often smell like a case of over using bug spray. When parents are confronted about this they may become quick to anger. At least that has been my experience. I have found them to instantaneously jump to excuses. They blame everything from Lyme disease to crime. A common excuse is that the weather has been too hot or too cold. I have noticed that these folks use heavy shades and blinds in their homes to cover up the abuse. Weather is not a reason to keep you children and pets hostage for weeks if not months at a time. Nothing justifies this. Child care law regulations require that children have at least a minimum of 1 and ½ hours outside everyday unless extreme weather disallows them. Think of the long term mental and physical damage these care takers are doing to these children. It is my opinion that new laws and new programs need to be implemented to address this new abuse
Pets are being incarcerated as well. There are dogs who are literally never walked trapped in houses, garages, cages, and cellars. If you do not think this is serious, think again. Picture a dog in a cage for 10 hours a day literally day after day or the child who is alone in a dark room weekend after weekend while the parent is on the computer. Educators, doctors and vets please look for the signs of this abuse and advocate for sunlight.
Have suggestions for these parents and care takers. Children can use spray bottles of colored water in the winter months and have the kid’s snow paint the ground. Utilize free beaches, parks, and nature preserves in the community. Engage children in gardening even if all you have space for is a window box. Most of all, please do not project your fear of nature and avoidance of life on to your children and pets.
By Joanne Kathleen Farrell