It seems these days that parents have all the fear and children have none. Reading "No Fear; Growing Up in a Risk-Averse Society" by Tim Gill (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2007, London) has been quite enlightening. It talks of how all our adult fears about children's safety has seriously impacted on their freedom. Measures have been taken as knee-jerk reactions to one-off tragedies because we are scared it might happen again. Walking to school, seesaws and playing in the street (or even just remote from parental supervision) are all examples of freedoms that I had that many young children no longer enjoy. At the extreme end of the spectrum, Gill even quotes stories of children being penalised by the police for chalk pictures on the pavement (graffitti) or cautioned by a local authority for anti-social behaviour; a 3 year-old playing football.
So, children have no fear because they are never exposed to any real dangers nowadays. If we are happy to treat our young people as beings to be protected then this would probably be a good state of affairs. If, however, we want to see them grow and develop with an understanding of risks, (how to live with them, manage them and avoid being dealt serious harm by them) then it quite patently is bad. Yes, it will probably result in our children visiting A&E more often, having more bumps, scrapes and kneefuls of gravel. No, this won't signify that we are bad and uncaring adults. You never know, it might even allow them to grow up with a greater streak of resilience than a lot of adults display nowadays.
Since homes seem to be some of the most dangerous places for children (they are more at risk from family members or other acquantances than from strangers) lets help them in lots of ways by allowing them outside, out of sight even. Arthur Ransome's heroes didn't mean to go to sea - the current generation of children will be lucky to even smell the beach through the car window at the rate we are going. Let's make some changes in our communities, maybe by trusting in a community first of all.
For all this though, we adults might need to tackle our own fears.
As some of you may have noticed from my Tweet on Friday, I spent some time in a piano bar that evening. It was in Cologne airport on my way home from a seminar in Germany - very relaxing with good tunes like 'Fly me to Dunoon' that seemed appropriately apt for the occasion. However, we were still talking about the seminar a bit and about future work. So was it laid back work or job-related leisure? Likewise, I was in an outdoor centre yesterday where we had a bit of time to sit and wait for the clients. We sat drinking tea and chatting - as you do - but again, was that relaxing work or just catching up with friends but in work time?
In the old days, when far more of us used to work 9 to 5, I think the boundaries were a lot clearer. At 5 you left the office or wherever, switched off the work bit of your brain and went home. Whilst leisure as a concept didn't exist in the same way, at least you could relax from thinking about the stresses and strains of work, even if you had other worries to occupy you at home. Just like the students this weekend who were relaxing their maths brains by going gorge walking, so for us too, maybe a change is as good as a rest.
How can we make it easier to switch off, to stop thinking about work more quickly?
Maybe we just need to think less - possibly its a behavioural issue that is more problematic for some of us than others. Alternatively, do we need to actively think about other things, substituting 'happy thoughts' in place of our work worries? Another option would be to be active, where doing something focusses our mind elsewhere.
As well as contributing to our balance between work and other aspects of life, knowing what we can use to distract ourselves can also play a part in how resilient we are too, which in itself will make us better able to cope with the occasonal imbalances in how we use our time.
What works for you? When you are finding work is engaging too many of your out of office thoughts, what do you do to redress the balance?
Just to prove that I too am capable of balance in my life occasionally, and to disarm the critics that claim I work too much, I provide evidence in video form.