So here we are at the start of another year, 2018. Of course we all want it to be a ‘happy one’ and hopefully it will be. But perhaps we could play a direct role in making it a whole lot happier by focusing on helping others and our planet.
These days it’s so very easy to become insular—to think only of ourselves and our family and friends, and wanting the best for them. But what if we were to step outside our comfort zone and look around at what’s going on; not just across the world, but here on this small island on which we’re privileged to live. Yes, Great Britain!
To kick off, let’s talk about children—and how they’re raised nowadays.
When I was growing up, there was no Internet – so no social media and no online shopping – and definitely no mobile phones! As children, we had the freedom of ignorance. What I mean is, we were protected by our parents, grandparents and teachers from the horrors out there to which children today seem often exposed. We weren’t allowed to, but also didn’t want to look at newspapers or listen to the news on the radio—in the days before television. That’s because we’d be out all day in the fresh air, playing with our friends and growing up blissfully cocooned from the world at large.
Today, we’re allowing young children to have their heads filled with so much negative and often frightening information—most of which is hard enough for adults to comprehend. And then we wonder why children as young as eight or nine are being diagnosed with stress and depression.
Responsibility, of course, still largely lies with the parents. But I have to also question the policymakers who seem to find it acceptable for our youth’s innocence to be stripped away in their formative years, rather than allowing them to grow up slowly—as we were—in a carefree environment, absorbing and learning from their experiences, being creative, and gaining confidence along the way.
To start from the beginning, let’s look at the family structure in our society today. Was it the right thing to do, in the late ’90s, to pressurize women to return to work and put their children into nursery or with a child-minder? Encouraged by the government of the day, which provided financial assistance by way of nursery vouchers, women acquired a new-found freedom, and families saw their spending power increase. A better home, holidays abroad, designer clothes and eating out were some of the benefits they convinced themselves would benefit them and their children. Excellent for the economy, but at what cost? Sadly, the price has been an ever-increasing breakdown in family life with more and more children forced to endure growing up in one-parent households.
I’ve personally witnessed this, and while I’m not suggesting every broken relationship involving children leads to disastrous consequences, it’s clear that the emotional trauma for both young children and teenagers can be overwhelming. The question is, will the children who experience this first-hand be able to understand how and why it’s affected their future selves as adults—and be able to do something about it? Going by the number of people now reportedly needing/seeking medication and counselling to treat depression, it appears not. And it’s no great surprise.
As a society we have to accept that, when parents separate, their children’s world collapses—and the security they once had is gone. In many cases the ‘break-up’ will involve moving home, changing schools, having to make new friends, start a different daily routine and very often have to deal with things which Mum or Dad would previously have taken care of. Suddenly they have two homes, and are forced to split their time between each, just so they can keep seeing Mum and Dad. Then maybe a new partner arrives on the scene—but that’s a whole ’nother blog post!
At this point I should say that I definitely don’t agree with couples who stay together for the sake of the children. If their relationship has irretrievably broken down and there’s no hope, it’s surely the right decision to separate. However, as we grow older we do change—and riding over and through the rough patches can ultimately smooth things out. Plus, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Watching my grandchildren growing up and being closely involved in their lives has been a privilege. But I also cannot help but compare what they have to cope with nowadays to that which my own children dealt with growing up through the 1970s and 1980s. There’s so much more to deal with and to be fearful about—and it’s all-too-often right there in front of them 24 hours a day!
So, in 2018, can we change anything to help reverse the overwhelming decline in the wellbeing of our children?
The answer is undoubtedly yes—but there needs to be a radical change in how we think about and approach raising them. We need to take a leaf out of what worked for us and give 21st century children back their childhoods, protecting them from the outer world. And we, as adults, also have to lead the way in understanding that when we take the leap into parenthood, sacrifices have to be made! The life of a single man or woman has to go on the backburner.
We need to allow our next generation of children to grow up slowly, at the right pace, so they can enjoy being a child and we can enjoy being parents. The pressures of fashion and make-up and the latest fads need to be removed—or at the very least shielded from our young ones. The designer labels and clothes we often feel we have to dress them in so as to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ are not enhancing their childhood or self-esteem, or teaching them the value of money and hard work. On the contrary, they’re learning nothing of value, parents become financially compromised and the fashion companies just get even richer!
Let children be children. Let them blossom and grow in a loving and carefree environment. Raise them with good, sound routines. As parents, you make the rules. Being told what is happening and when will make your children feel secure and loved. Give them a time to head to bed and stick to it. Don’t be swayed by pleas for an extra half hour.
Remove all electronic devices from their bedrooms and encourage reading before sleep. I always read to my children and grandchildren; they loved it and so did I!
Consider what your child has access to every day, and how those things would have affected you at their age. If it would have scared you, surely it will scare them? And when they reach their teens and it sometimes feels like a battleground, realise it’s not. They are simply seeing how far they can push the boundaries—and it’s up to you, as parents, to set those boundaries and make them impenetrable. If they go out, ensure they’re back at the time you say. They will thank you for it in the long run.
Sadly, not all of us will experience the joy of being a parent. But those that do, need to recognise how incredibly special it is. Cherish each child through their early and then teenage years. And when they reach 18 and officially become an adult, give yourself a pat on the back, for the amazing human being you have raised. You’ll deserve it!
Until next time,
Happy New Year!
Granny Flapjax X