Young People to Happy Adults

by Sandy Fennell

Has the world gone mad? No, don't answer!

We live in a society where a teacher at school is not allowed to give a 15 year old at school a paracetamol for a headache, even with the phoned-in permission of a known foster carer, but where a child of the same age can be prescribed the "morning after" pill by a pharmacist, without the parent's permission. That applies even though it is technically illegal for someone to have sex with a minor. Why else would someone need the morning after pill, I ask myself?

We also live in a society where parents can get into serious trouble for smacking their children, and indeed children have been taken into Care for reporting their parents for administering corporal punishment. But it's interesting to note that when children hit or seriously verbally abuse their parents, most people's honest response is that the parents are probably to blame for not having disciplined their children correctly in the first place.

It is also a legal requirement that children under 16 should attend school or some legitimate alternative. Indeed, when they refuse to do so, parents can face a prion sentence. I wonder how the people who make and enforce these rules would set about getting a stubborn, resistant teenager, who is larger than they are, out of bed and into school and keep them there for the appropriate hours?

There is a great deal of emphasis on children having rights, and having "a voice" in society, and being given freedom to make their own choices. And there are many delightful, resourceful, creative and responsive young people in this area. But there are also many who have been taught that society owes them a living; that because they are victims of other people's bad or wrong choices, they have a right to their "pound of flesh". Of course they want to be happy - don't we all? But I wonder if they would ultimately find the elusive happiness they are seeking, if instead of being taught about their rights, their deserved freedoms, and how much our decadent society owes them, they were taught about such boring subjects as forgiving those who hurt them, putting at least as much into society as they hope to get out of it, preserving the world's resources instead of abusing them, and the reality that sex is actually just one aspect of the love that they are seeking to fill the gaping holes in their lives?

I am deeply committed to keeping children safe but my observation is that we are doing our young people few favours if they grow up with a distorted picture of what life is really about. Early and appropriate boundaries are essential for good adult mental health. Learning in childhood to take responsibility for the consequences of choices, is a pretty good building block for adult life. Learning to share, to give, and sometimes to go without something, is character building rather than damaging. Exposure to the needs of those less fortunate than themselves may be shocking, but it's reality, and sometimes helps them to gain perspective on what is going on in their own lives. If we can teach our children to cope with the inevitable pain they will experience, without resorting to addictive or obsessive behaviours, it will stand them in good stead for their futures!

Of course, children learn by example, and we need to monitor our own behaviours in these areas before we deserve respect! Perhaps if we demonstrated qualities of faithfulness, humility, compassion, forgiveness and consistency, the world of the adolescent wouldn't feel quite so un-understandable!

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