Teachers are complaining that when some children begin their education, they no longer know how to share, socialise, or even make friends – creating problems within the classroom and necessitating teachers to teach the most basic of interpersonal skills.
We have a problem with childhood obesity – for the first time ever it is predicted that parents of today will be the first generation to begin to outlive its offspring. And according to UNICEF, British children are the unhappiest in Europe, by a long way.
What are we doing to our kids?
It would be some comfort to think that an entire generation of parents were wrapping children up in cotton wool and living by the stranger danger code, thereby misguidedly killing childhood with love. Unfortunately the problem is two fold, each problem resulting in the same outcome.
The ‘afraid to let the kids move’ parents are the first half of the problem, but there are also parents who allow the computer, TV and play stations to dominate their children’s lives, and find it easier to let this happen. After all, at least if he’s in his bedroom he’s not out on the streets, which are full of ‘danger.’
Our streets are not full of danger – not in the way almost all children and parents think today anyway.
While he is sat in his bedroom avoiding the imaginary child abusers and kidnappers, he’s also not socialising, making friends, extending his imagination, learning to be creative, playing, getting muddy, ripping trousers, falling out of trees, making dens, kicking a ball around or pushing back the boundaries of acceptable behaviour therefore reinforcing those boundaries even further; he never gets to be the cowboy or the Indian, unless it’s on a plasma screen.
The recent disappearance of Madeleine McCann, desperately sad as it is, will only serve to make this situation worse.
Evidently 95% of children who contact the charity Childline, know who their abuser is. It is usually either a family member or someone in a position of trust, not someone they just met on the street.
I know a number of people who have been sexually abused as children; it goes like this, the vicar, the hospital porter, dad’s friend, uncle.
Any child is more likely to be run over in the street than to be abused in it. 29,000 children in the
UK were involved in road accidents last year, 156 of which were fatal. We should be ingraining the Green Cross Code into our children’s brains, not stranger danger!According to the NSPCC, on average one child is killed by their parent or carer every week in Britain – far more accidents happen in the home than in the park, the fields or the streets. That fact is going to present any parent with a cotton wool mentality with a problem, do we make the home out of bounds?
Parents need to start relaxing and trusting their children’s instincts and become more aware of their children’s most basic needs. Our children should be healthy and free to explore.Someone needs to get the message out that in order to learn to be responsible and independent, children need to learn to via the most basic first steps how to do this.
How to find your way home when you get lost; how to help your friend down who is stuck in the tree; how to look after the younger children and little siblings in the group; how to a make a picnic last all day; and how to trust.
And of course the most important lesson of all, the one you call on over and over again throughout your adult life – how to fight and make up.
Nadine Dorries is MP for Mid Bedfordshire
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