Meeting the Problems of Your Children
“He was sick when he came home at 2 a.m.,” his mother explained. “I just put him to bed and waited until this morning to ask him what happened. With his hands holding his throbbing head—like any other repentant morning-after drunk—he told me that he’d been down at the drive-in with his thirteen-year-old friends, and three older boys shared some beer with them.”
Not just a few mothers and fathers have had a similar experience with their youngsters. However, excessive drinking is only one of the problems that parents often face today.
The modern-day emphasis on sex has also resulted in skyrocketing cases of venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies and forced marriages. The adult world has adopted a “new morality” of sexual freedom, and youth copy it. This unquestionably has resulted in a great increase of problems among young people.
Last fall a United States Senate study said that, in its opinion, “four and a half million [one in every ten] American children need psychiatric treatment” to cope with seriously undesirable behavior patterns. The study also revealed that, of the 29 million children in the ten to seventeen age-group, 2 1⁄2 million, or about one in every eleven, has a police record! Indeed, the troubles in which modern youth are involved stagger the imagination.—New York Times, October 19, 1966, front page.
Parents in other countries, too, are experiencing problems with their children. In Japan, for instance, the number of lawbreakers under twenty years of age tripled between 1953 and 1963. “And the frightening thing,” notes a prominent police official, “is that the crimes are tending more and more toward violence . . . and the average age of the offenders is getting younger.”
How can you, as parents, successfully meet the problems of your children? First, you must be convinced that they need your attention and help. Do not assume that the wild parties, the drinking, reckless driving, and other escapades of youth cannot possibly involve your children. They can, as Mrs. Arnold Washton, president of the Parents League of New York, observed: “We have received so many letters and telephone calls from parents who want to know how to help children who have become involved in these problems that we know they can exist in the most careful families and schools.”
There is no question about it; children vitally need understanding, loving parents. A baby comes into the world helpless and ignorant, with little knowledge other than how to suck and to cry. Therefore Almighty God provided the marriage arrangement, so that the child could receive necessary guidance and instruction from ones who would truly love it. And the Bible emphasizes the importance of parents’ regularly giving this instruction.—Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4.
However, to do so requires setting aside time to be with your children. This time together should be planned, so that it really does build up and strengthen family ties. Make it fun, and yet instructive. At mealtimes, for instance, experiences, ideas, activities, hopes and plans can be shared. Keep in mind things heard during the day that are humorous or of common interest, and share them at the meal table. This communication and interest can draw the family together, giving the children a sense of security, of belonging.
Parents should never underestimate the importance of communication with their youngsters. “The fundamental complaint of young Americans,” notes one well-known writer, is “that they cannot talk with grown people. . . . the very great majority of our kids have never enjoyed an intimate friendship with even one grown person.” Little wonder that newspapers and magazines every year receive thousands of letters from children who say they want someone with whom to talk over their personal problems.
But how is it that parents and their children drift so far apart, making conversation on vital matters almost impossible? According to the above writer: “Their efforts to communicate with us are invariably and completely squelched.” Unfortunately, this is often true. Parents frequently push off their inquiring child, ‘Go away; can’t you see I’m busy?’ How much better if the parent, when really busy, would promise to discuss the matter later and, when free, ask the child what was on his mind. In this way the child will sense that his parents are really interested in him and will more readily confide in them.
Youngsters need someone to talk with, a person who appreciates their problems and who will help them to meet them by providing needed counsel. Illustrating how parents often fail to satisfy this need, two physicians recently wrote: “The story is told of the mother with an uninformed thirteen-year-old pregnant daughter. When asked if she had explained the ‘facts of life’ to her daughter, she replied, ‘Oh, no, I thought she was too young for that.’”
The doctors then observed: “Too frequently, such parents send their ten- to twelve-year-olds to unchaperoned parties with ‘dates’ wearing silk stockings, high heels, adult-style clothes and lipstick, and then wonder how they get into trouble at fifteen years of age.” It is true that youngsters may at times pressure for freedom to do such things. However, as parents you must stand firm and enforce necessary rules. It is your responsibility to do so! And, really, your children will be grateful if you do.
If you maintain healthy family ties so that your children feel free to talk with you, and if you anticipate the problems they will face and prepare them to meet them, the bond of love between you and your children is certain to grow. At times they may resent what they consider undue restrictions. But eventually they will undoubtedly voice the sentiments of one teen-ager: “Now I finally know what I can and can’t do—and it’s taken a terrific load off my mind.”