Saturday, 25 April 2009

“MORE than 3,000 troubled children have turned for help to the NSPCC Sheffield Young People's Centre” The Star’s headline has just shouted at me.

The building in the city centre, a former bank on George Street, was opened seven years ago with support from readers of The Star, who raised £250,000. The centre now helps 450 children a year , aged between nine and eighteen, who are or have suffered bullying, family breakdowns, bereavement, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It provides a safe and welcoming place for troubled young people and has counselling rooms, play areas and a relaxation lounge.It also has a children's rights service and visiting services for children who have little contact with their family for full report and contact details.

The Young People’s Centre is, of course a great achievement and a wonderful support service for people in need. Many youngsters will, I am sure, be able to lead happier, safer, more positive lives in the future because of this support.

But I can not stop thinking – what ARE we doing to our children? And why ?

The statistics of cruelty and abuse truly are shocking, I do not intend to analyse them or compare them to other areas of the country or the world. (I am not smart enough to even attempt that and am also a little cynical about these sort of comparisons) The important fact is that this is happening and increasing, disproportionately to the increase of population in general.

We can debate endlessly whether people watching too much TV or playing violent computer games is the cause of this. The breakdown of family life and society is a constant topic of debate, even at the school gates. This was not the case when I took my own children to school not so many years ago, but it is the case now as my grandchildren begin their school lives. Before someone asks, no I have not done surveys and collected figures on opinion. I (and many others) just sense it - we know it because we are living it. Anger at a multitude of situations appears to cause physical violence so very easily and naturally, today. Worrying.
Even more worrying is that also at the school gates I hear parents cursing their children in the vilest of language, and then punish those same children for swearing back at them.

So, what do we do? I hear you asking. Some might even tell the tales of being belted by their father for a misdemeanour in childhood which “never did me any harm”.
I suggest that it did. If we bring up our children surrounded by violence, cruelty and abuse, then these things will be perpetuated in their childhood and in their adulthood.

Blame the parents?
Blame is not the right word, but parents need to be responsible. But also support them in an increasingly difficult task of educating their children in a society that has authorities who lie constantly and has Police who beat senseless the “protesters” who object to this.
A society which does not appear to care for it's people can not expect it's people to be responsible and to care for each other.

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