A crisis of inadequate parenting

Monday, May 26, 2014

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IT'S obvious that the prime responsibility of all adults must be to take care of children. Not just your child, but all children.

Yet it seems fair to say that while adults understand and appreciate the principle, as a whole, Jamaicans have not approached this business of parenting and child care in a sensible manner.

To begin with, far too many of our people — not least thoughtless young adults and teenagers — bear children with no material means of supporting their offspring.

In an indirect way such irresponsible parenting is buttressed by religion and culture.

To this day, for example, there are established and respected religious groups which reject the use of birth-control methods.

Also, the society continues to shy away from the challenge of how to get sexually active teenagers to use condoms to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Simply claiming that children shouldn't be having sex is akin to society burying its collective head.

The challenge is made more complex since the legal age of sexual consent is 16. There is the legitimate question of whether facilitating children below that age with condoms would not amount to aiding
and abetting.

How to deal with these issues is something Jamaicans and their leaders must address.

Having got that off our chest, it seems to this newspaper that far too many Jamaican parents and guardians are held back by ignorance and downright carelessness as they seek to 'bring up' children.

This newspaper is assailed by such thoughts as we contemplate the death of four youngsters in St James over recent days.

Appalling ignorance apparently explains the decision of one parent to punish and reprimand a child — already suffering emotional pain and excruciating humiliation — for having wet her bed.

In such circumstances, the child needed a hug, not a tongue-lashing or God forbid,
a whipping.

Parents need to understand that abusing children verbally, physically or otherwise solves nothing and can lead to awful consequences.

And what of the grandmother who went to bed thinking her absent eight-year-old grandson was with a neighbour but neglected to check?

We recognise and appreciate that our child-care and protection agencies and others, such as some churches and schools, have been trying to proactively educate parents on the care of children.

It's obvious, though, that much more needs to be done in a systematic and co-ordinated way.

We note the call by West Central St James Member of Parliament Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams for a department of government dedicated to "family". We can already hear the groans of those who complain that government is already too big.

However, the family forms the base of society. And it's been obvious for a very long time that in Jamaica irresponsible parenting and inadequate child care are at
crisis proportions.

Something must be done.




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