Letters to the Editor: Childrearing today

In today’s society, our children
are facing much greater challenges than they did even two decades ago.

In addition to the onslaught of
multiple messages from the internet and traditional media – some that are not
so positive – children are facing many age-old problems right in their own
homes, schools and communities. 

Some children in Cayman, as well as
beyond our shores, are facing issues such as physical, sexual and emotional
abuse; parental neglect or rejection; separation and abandonment; domestic
violence; crime victimisation; substance abuse; poverty, among many other
social ills.

There is evidence to suggest that
in today’s society more of our youth are becoming entangled in criminal
activity and therefore coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
Also, teenage pregnancy remains a reality of our everyday life.

The question for all of us as a
community is how can we love our children through today’s challenges?  How can we ensure that we help our children
to navigate the rough waters of today’s society, and at the end of the day
emerge, not just unscathed, but fully equipped for a productive adult life?

The short answer is that we have to
do it together. It does take a village to raise a child. This means that all
have a role to play – the family, schools, churches, the wider community, the
business sector and government.

Undoubtedly families are the
cornerstone of our society. But today, families are under pressure, with many
parents working harder and longer hours, and as a result finding it difficult
to make time for their children. It is imperative that parents make the time
with their children and engage in activities that promote their health and
wellness. Whether it is helping with homework; talking to them about their day;
finding out what is on their minds and other topics of mutual interest, time
spent with your children is a wise investment. 

For many dual-income families,
schools provide child care, social skills training, as well as age-appropriate academic
instructions.  However, even with those
forms of support provided, and curricular and extra-curricular programming in
our schools, our children are still getting involved in anti-social activities.

In the past decade, the issues that
have emerged in our schools, amongst our children, have made case-conferencing
a necessity. It has become necessary for parents, teachers and other
professional/community resources to liaise and address the behavioral and
mental health issues that have emerged in our schools.

Parents experiencing hardships in
providing for the basic needs of their children, due to social and economic
barriers i.e. single incomes, inadequate dual incomes or unemployment, are
encouraged to seek assistance. Government programmes offered through the
Department of Children and Family Services provide a safety net for the
vulnerable in the society, and that includes family and children. The Department
of Children and Family Services provides budget planning, skills training, job
search, financial assistance to families, school lunches for children and
others benefits for those families who are eligible for services.

Other government agencies also
exist to strengthen families. These include the Department of Counselling Services;
the Family Resource Centre; the Youth Service Unit; the Courts and the various
ministries and related agencies. Families are also advised to take advantage of
family-centred programmes that give guidance on family planning, parenting,
counseling, and that promote wholesome recreational activities for the entire
family.All these agencies exist to assist families to cope with the challenges
they face, but also to provide the avenues to the necessary intervention to
rebuild broken lives. Yet strong community support must always complement the
efforts of families, schools and the government.    

Against this background, ordinary
citizens, churches and private organisations must continue to champion the
cause of children. One way that a citizen can help, is to volunteer his or her
time to assist children.  Members of the
community must also watch over our children by protecting them from abuse and
other negative social influences.

Churches and organisations can also
help in practical ways such as providing after-school and youth programmes.
Many churches run youth programmes which assist young people with their total
development and character-building.  Some
of these programmes also teach our children and young people proper hygiene,
abstinence, the value of service to our churches and larger communities, as
well as social decorum.  Above all else,
our churches continue to foster healthy families and provide our children with
faith-based training for life. 

With respect to role of the private
sector, there are many private and non-government organization who continue to
give their time and resources to supplement the efforts of government. This
role remains a key function that the private sector must continue to play and
it would be wonderful to see more companies stepping up to the plate. Private
sector organisation and others can also continue to invest in our community,
for example crime watch, beautification, education and other social programmes
to ensure that our children have a safe environment in which to grow up.

In conclusion, we must take a
collaborative approach to meeting the needs of our children and to guide and
love them through today’s challenges. While the family has the primary role to
raise the child, all of us must lend our support. Let us be the village that
helps to raise the child and together love them through today’s challenges.

Cindy Dilbert, Social worker,

Department of Children and Family Services