"When adults understand how to create ecologies where youth have abundant experiences that support their developmental needs, they can purposefully attend to the building blocks of developing a strong society...Positive and caring relationships with other people are the core of the human experience. Relationships involve trust, respect, and care and concern for others, the community, and our world." [Reclaiming Youth International, October Newsletter]
As a winner of the Reclaiming Youth International Child Advocacy Award in 2006, I recently received this newsletter, and these words struck a responsive chord for me. It should not be rocket science that a stable and strong society depends on children being raised in a climate of "positive and caring relationships" but I know from personal experience that millions of children never experience this benefit.
How often do we read about the school shooter whose family really had no relationship with him or the bully whose family had no idea who she really was or what she was doing?
Too many adults have abdicated relationships with their children in favor of allowing TV and electronic media to take over. Today I meet children in this country who rarely, if ever, spend time talking with their parents or other adults, spend almost no time doing activities together... the personal touch is lost... children are, for all intents and purposes abandoned to texting and tweeting.
I know full well that earlier generations felt that way about radio and TV in the early days, but radio and TV were not constantly in your pocket, in your hand beeping for that Pavlovian response... you had to make an effort to listen or watch... not today.
Clearly, this trend could well put the stability of our society in jeopardy, perhaps not immediately, but over the long term.
In the end, there is no reasonable alternative to being held, hugged, spoken to by another human being. We know that children who live in orphanages in third world countries where they may never be held, never cuddled or talked to, do not grow up healthy become dysfunctional and may die very young.
I do not advocate banning handheld devices or retrograding back to the 1950's. What I do advocate is for parents and families to set aside time each day for true "human contact" with their families. Even one hour a day can make a significant difference in the life of a child.
Is there anyone who cannot allocate 4.1 percent of their day to actually hold and speak to their children?