Opening keynote: Peer Orientation: Why Children are Stressed, Why Parents and Teachers are Disempowered and How To Restore a Healthy Balance in Adult-Child Relationships.
Parenting and teaching are much harder these days than they used to be, and than they should be. In Hold On To Your Kids, Dr. Gabor Maté (with developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld) forward a provocative and important view of why this is, and what we can do to counteract it.
The root of the problem is that children no longer look to adults for emotional support, the teaching of values, or the modeling of behaviour. Peer orientation refers to the tendency of children and youth to look to their peers for direction: for their sense of right and wrong, codes of conduct, and their very identity. Peer orientation undermines family cohesion, sabotages healthy development and fosters an aggressive and prematurely sexualized youth culture. For parents already challenged by the demands of our multitasking world and stretched by stark economic realities, peer orientation further complicates the task of child rearing. Children were never meant by nature to be in a position where they are so dominant in influencing one another. This state of affairs may be the norm today, but it’s neither natural nor healthy. Historically it is a very new development, due to economic and social influences prevalent since World War II, resulting in a deep undermining of adult-child connections.
This talk aims at restoring parenting to its natural intuitive basis and the adult-child relationship to its rightful preeminence. The concepts, principles and practical advice articulated will empower parents, teachers and other adults who play a nurturing role to be for children what nature intended: the true source of contact, security and warmth. Parents must regain their natural authority, without coercion, punishment and artificial consequences. Children need to be protected from becoming lost in the emotionally barren and culturally backward world of peer orientation.
Afternoon workshop: Fostering Resilience in a Stressed Culture
Many more children than in the past are diagnosed these days with various learning and behaviour difficulties and many have problems learning from negative experiences. Schools are also having to deal with an increasing incidence of bullying which “zero tolerance” policies do not seem to be diminishing. Dr. Maté’s sessions, based on his best-selling books, will include generous time for interactive dialogue with participants and will focus on the causes and underlying dynamics of the challenges faced by today’s children – and therefore, by the adults tasked with nurturing and educating them. It will be shown that the most important feature of any approach to resilience needs to be the attachment relationship between children and the adults responsible for their care.