Home | About | Donate

In Sweden, Children are Citizens… Not Overheads


In Sweden, Children are Citizens… Not Overheads

Christian Christensen

It is a mid-May Sunday in Stockholm. It is drizzling. It is very cold. I’m taking my daughter to the opening of a new municipal playground in the center of the city: a great place designed by people who obviously thought a lot about what kids like. The playground is located in a prime spot. In many other cities in the world this space would have been sold long ago to make way for apartments or shops.


Excellent article and very telling of life in most of Europe. I am American and this year I was fortunate enough to travel to various European countries and stay for several weeks in each. I also dragged my wife with me whom is 6 months pregnant. The one thing that we immediately noticed in Rome, Madrid, Dublin, Berlin and Moscow was how attentive the average person is to a pregnant women, in all these countries we never waited a line, she always got a seat from a stranger and waiters made sure to check up on her. In Moscow we entered a restaurant that was full and without knowing the language the waiter gave us a reserved table and was very attentive. Now we are back in the US and to our norm, where a 7 month pregnant women is ignored and forced to wait on line every where we go. We discuss this all the time but could not piece together why the stark difference in culture and I believe that this piece really illuminated the why. Thank you.


Swedes are marvelous people--except when it comes to Julian Assange.


Let's put that on their government and not on the people. When I was in Sweden in 2005 the people were quick to condemn Bush/Cheney, but quicker to welcome me.


I work as a teacher with adolescents partially and fully admitted into a psychiatric hospital, for life-threatening conditions such as depression, suicidal ideation, eating "disorders" (I don't like the feel of this term put on people, hence my quotes; but I do recognize the seriousness of these conditions), social anxiety, family conflict, and more. Our patients/students stay with us for as long as their doctors recommend, the family and child support… and insurance allows. For those with poor quality insurance, they are kicked out quickly, within days. Others whose families are wealthy or who have the best insurance can stay for months. We have lost adolescents in our day program to suicide, something that is not supposed to happen while a child is connected to treatment. There are lots of suffering kids who never even make it to the hospital, but linger, and often die, with no intervention.

In our U.S. system, I am forced to take down all student artwork and writing from the walls because any exposed paper in a hospital is now considered by administrators and those who influence them to be a disease-carrying medium. Colleagues tell me this directive is one of the private hospital's way of responding to their fear of lawsuits over people getting sick from hospitals. I protest that taking down this student work does harm to our therapeutic work, it takes away a key support: the provision of an environment in which the children can see they are valued, celebrated, cherished, and in which they can see the infinite uniqueness, boldness, sensitivity, ideas, and skill of their peers on display. But I am told, sorry, take them down or we'll recycle them for you. Many, many students and adults have marveled at the artworks and writing I've posted all over the walls, but now it comes down. Then I am told that if I enclose them in plastic sheets, that would be okay… but the feeling of plastic-shrouded artwork and poems is not nearly the same (besides, using plastic means producing poisons in their production, so doing so would just mean harming the health of others elsewhere). But then the inspectors that drove all this fear have moved on, and so I realize I can put student work up again and no one now will enforce the no-papers-on-walls rule… at least for now. The struggle to create an environment for loving and cherishing children goes on. The first rule for cherishing children should be: don't bomb them or shroud them in plastic. The second rule: do love them, and let them love and learn from each other, from themselves, from you, and from investigating everything.


This article simply reflects the old spirit of Community which existed or has existed for thousands of years. Community has become a dirty word to many and is being replaced by individualism first and foremost where the only concern is the self. Community sounds too much like Communism I guess.


There is really no way around facing the fact that the project to create a callous, self-absorbed, Homo economicus has been largely successful in the USA. The psychopath Ayn Rand would be proud.


That is absurd! Good god! If they come back, ask the inspectors for the published scientific evidence that any disease has ever been transmitted on a piece of paper!


Community is still around especially in small towns. I think that you are referring to consumerism which people fall into just like processed food which has enabled more fat people to exist.


Plenty of Americans take their children to the playground primarily for the child's benefit. You don't have to go to Sweden for that.


Don't conflate suburbia with the city. Where I found real community was in inner city ethnic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. But with yuppies from suburbia moving in, it is changing fast.


Yeah but I bet that in Sweden, the children can also walk to the playground themselves without the busybody paranoid neighbors calling the police on the the parents for allowing them to do so.


I agree children are often over-protected in the U.S., such as being accompanied to the playground rather than let to walk there on their own. But that is even more evidence that we act in the interests of the children rather than for the convenience of the parents, compared to what the article would have you believe.


"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.“
Frederick Douglass


I don't think the article is leading us to believe that children aren't cared for in the US, it is simply stating that in Sweden children are placed above profits. In the US profits are placed above all and that is just a fact that is obvious in our culture and the way we treat children.


Not really. True interest in the child's welfare is letting them grow and develop their independence as individuals rather than possessions, and not succumb to media-driven paranoia about bogeymen being everywhere. "Crushing love" from a mother is a terrible thing. I know first-hand from facing it as a kid.