A few months back, leader of the Conservative Party in the UK, David Cameron MP, spoke of the country’s troubled teenagers and how their problems could be solved with love.
Not being remotely inspired by politics, I have to admit I did a double take when I heard that. Love? Whaaaat? Ears pricked, I stopped in my tracks.
Politicians like to espouse family values when they’re leading up to an election, but to actually suggest that the ‘L’ word as a solution seemed, well, somehow out of place in English society; you know, land of the stiff upper lip and ‘dignified’ modes of emotional expression.
Prime Minister Tony Blair used his Queen’s Speech to act the playground bully and mock Mr Cameron. “Love?” he snickered, almost choking on the word. Funny how you can really go off a person in a nano-second. Perhaps love is an alien experience in his family. Clearly he’s not in a position to lead by example, if the fact his teenage son was found drunk and asleep in a London park late one night is anything to go by.
Kids will cry out to us for attention (eg. ADD or ADHD). Our job is to listen to their cues before it gets to this point. Just as an intuitive mother recognizes when her infant needs to breastfeed (lips pucker, fist in mouth, etc), and offers her babe the breast well before crying needs to start, the same is true as our children get older. It is too easy to blind ourselves to children’s basic biological needs simply because they don’t ‘cry’, or worse, we’re too busy to notice their cues. What is dysfunctional behavior but a cry, a last ditch attempt to claim our attention.
The truth is, family life is eroding rapidly, and the consequences are not pretty. What happens in someone else’s family has a ripple effect on the cultural pond from which we all drink.
Our collective, magnetic attraction to materialism is, in short, fast-tracking us to complete dysfunction and a collapse of society as we know it.
No government can legislate for family preservation. It has to come from the heart of the home. From our heart. We have to believe and experience the value of family to recognise its importance on a grander scale. Never mind midwifing the world, we have to consciously birth our own family into awareness.
I was asked, recently, what I’d change about modern childhood. That is, if I had to choose just one aspect, what would bring harmony and happiness back into family life. In some ways it was a tough question, because there are so many aspects to today’s way of living which are all interrelated. And while I’d educate adults about the deleterious effects of a televisual culture for young children, eradicate junk food, mobile phones, nasty computer games, aggressive marketing and so on, the truth is the main issue is the most glaring, and would in many cases remedy the other toxic issues.
Kids need time with their parents. We have this idea that so long as kids get the odd patch of ‘quality’ time then everything will be ok. But when you’re not with your child, you have to ask, “what is my presence being replaced with?” A tv in their bedroom? Strangers on an e-group? Texting? Structured play? Junk food?
Kids just want to hang out with their parents. They don’t want structured activities or non-stop amusements to fill their every waking hour. They want their parents to interact with them, to acknowledge their existence ~ hugs, laughter, eye contact, a pat on the shoulder, talking, being. These are what kids need.
Children aren’t stupid. And we need to stop treating them that way. They recognize when we’re acting with integrity and know when we are really ‘with’ them.
Love is an exchange between living things ~ be they Divine, human or animal. It can be given, received and felt. Lives are transformed through love. It can’t be experienced by or through inanimate objects. So how, then, do we expect our children to learn about love when we give them ‘things’ to compensate for our absence? And don’t be fooled, we can be just as absent if we’re physically present as full-time stay-at-home parents.
As for the dysfunctional teenagers being targeted by the government, they didn’t end up like this by chance. At various points along the path of childhood, they’ve felt neglected in one way or another. It’s misguided to perpetuate the myth of the generation gap. The issue is a communication gap, and that can happen at any age.
Today’s children are mirroring the best and worst of modern culture. We can’t band-aid the problems with yet more mobile phones, fast food outlets, computer games, more structured education.
What’s needed is a revolution not just to save our children, but our culture. And it has to come from us, the parents. A generation of emotionally hungry children are showing us all the things that are wrong with our culture. The modern world might suit adults, but it’s no place for growing children.
Many adults are feeling as if they’re in a spiritual desert and that their own emotional needs aren’t being met. They’ve worked hard for the house, holiday, techno-gadgets, cars and status, and yet something is missing. As adults though, we keep pushing and pushing thinking that we’ll arrive ‘somewhere’ soon and everything will be ok.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to recognize that success, happiness, love and peace can never be found outside of ourselves. It’s an inside job. In a culture that advocates the polar opposite, we’ve got our work cut out for us. But you know what? We can do it!