Paying attention to kids is more important than buying toys: Child advocate

Margrite Kalverboer
Margrite Kalverboer. (@Kinderombudsvrw / Twitter)

Kids in the Netherlands are more in need of real interest and attention from adults than they are of more toys, Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer concluded after touring through the country speaking with children. "We believe that children are materialistic, but when you ask them what they think is important, it is attention at number 1", she said, according to Het Parool.

Kalverboer started her term as Children's Ombudsman of the Netherlands by touring through the country speaking with hundreds of children and having over 2 thousand kids fill out questionnaires. 

One of the main things she noticed is that kids in the country show a lack of real attention and interest, not only from parents, but also from authorities and aid workers. The main request from children in the country is: Talk to us, see us. We are more than our file, our illness or our problem. 

Kalverboer mentions a boy on Sint Eustatius, whose fisherman father spends every day at sea. "As we talked to him, never ever talked to him." She was also shocked by how lonely deaf kids are, because most of the population does not know how to respond to their gestures. And one boy and his mother spent three days not knowing whether his father still lived after he was arrested. "Sometimes children get so little explanation and information."

She noticed the same problem among children growing up with money trouble. "If we help children in poverty, it is often with a child package: so they can celebrate a birthday in the classroom, get a bicycle, music lessons, can go to a sports club. Very good that it happens, but they are much more uncertain about the future. Obviously they need other support. One girl told me how much she is struggling under the problems of her mother. She was literally trembling, but was very happy that she could tell her story."

Most of the kids she spoke to also indicated that their days are too full and that they have no time for anything but school, homework and sleep. Kalverboer believes this to be a real problem. "I really get the idea that attention is lacking, that too high standards are set for children. They have to live up to the beautiful picture, be smart, get good grades. Maybe parents need to talk more and educate less. Give them some space!"

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