What do you do when a child shuts down? What do you do when you cannot communicate with a child, when a child seems to have lost their emotions, their sense of conscience? What do you do when a child runs away?
It is probably too late to do anything. Well, it's never too late, but the chasm has widened to great proportions. One can only hope that they come back and then, from that moment on, that we begin chipping through the wall that separates us so that we may rebuild the bond that we once had with our child.
Being a parent nowadays is extremely difficult. With the stress caused by today's fast paced environment, too many of us focus on ourselves and leave our children to fend for themselves, physically and emotionally. Our children do not lack in material things. Every modern convenience is at their fingertips. They hang out at the mall, shop for whatever they desire. They have their own social lives, they come and go as they please. Why one might even say that our children are spoiled rotten. However, while having everything this world has to offer, our children are emotionally destitute.
This hasn't happened all of a sudden and we are not fully to blame, as we too were given every modern convenience. Our parents too worked and had their own stresses and worries. Although we too were taken care of with the best they had to offer, we too suffered from the lack of attention and love that their modern world demanded of them.
I believe that our children are at the tail end of what has been a slow progression of materialism replacing love. Therefore, we needn't blame ourselves, as we too have been victims of this progression and in many ways, we are raising our children as our parents raised us. Our behavior is one we have learned. However, with each generation, we lose a little more of the bond that cements parent and child and little by little our children slip away.
I trace this back to the 1960's, when the world turned a very sharp corner and everything changed. Values changed, morals changed, women went in to the working world. Soon day care centers that replaced a mother's care sprang up all over. A new way of life had begun. This was the beginning of our letting go.
As each new generation takes its place in society, I see our children growing up a little bit sooner than the last generation. If I was queen of the world, I would see to it that children remained carefree and happy for the first twenty years of their lives before they were obligated to take on the responsibility of being adults. However, I am not the queen of the world and I see our children forced to grow up and take on the role of an adult much before their time.
As we parents are preoccupied with making a living, paying bills, taking care of the house, soccer games, shopping, running here, running there, we inadvertently force our children to grow up much sooner than they would normally need to. This can be seen in our children's very actions. Children are experimenting with sex at an earlier age with each passing generation. Being that they are not emotionally mature at that age to really cope with this facet of life, it results in unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Each choice has an emotional drawback at such an early age. By the time the parent finds out, it is too late and the layers of life begin to build. For those who keep their babies, they must suddenly become responsible adults. However, we know that this is not always the case, the result being another child left to grow up on their own and so on and so forth and the cycle merely continues.
Rebellion is another result of today's fast paced environment. The majority of our rebellious teens, forced by today's society, will grow up to be the responsible parents of tomorrow, only to have the cycle repeated by their own children.
The worst case scenario is when a child grows up feeling that he is not loved. One thing that every human being on the planet needs is love and acceptance. Granted, there are many times out in the world when we do not receive this love and acceptance, but when a child does not get this from their own parents, the consequences are devastating. The child will seek it out by whatever other means possible: gangs, cults, friendships, boyfriends, girlfriends, sex, drugs, and the list goes on. Each individual child reacts differently to lack of love and indifference. Some will do anything in the world to please their parents and gain acceptance. Others will react angrily and become rebellious. And then there are some that will simply shut down. As they rebel, they become so hardened, that they will lose all sense of emotion. They will become hard and uncaring, their demeanor will even almost appear as evil. At this point, all attempts to reach them will fail, as they have shut down. Their trust for all humankind has been lost. In a case such as this, I have no idea how it can be retrieved. One can only hope that a circumstance in life will touch them, thereby softening their heart. That one person somewhere who will touch and save them from this terrible fate. But the sad part is that at this point, it is highly unlikely.
The teenage suicide rate is higher than it has ever been. These hopeless teens are the ones that lack for nothing in the material sense. But somewhere love is missing. Lack of love creates a sense of worthlessness, of hopelessness. They have reached a point where nothing works anymore. Not people, not alcohol, not drugs, not anything. They have reached a state of complete hopelessness.
Today, we accept things as normal that years ago we would have considered tragic. Runaway teens are a very common thing. We have become desensitized to the suffering in this world, especially our own children's sufferings. While in our care, we miss the most important of warning signs until it's too late or our children are gone. Then we panic, we cry, we beg them to come home, as we promise them that we will work things out. In our despair, we pray that they don't run into the wrong person, a person that will give them the false hope of love, only to give them the most bitter disappointment of all.
Those of us in this position can only wait and pray, as we solemnly resolve that if we get our child back, things will be different. We will communicate with our child and rebuild that bond that mother and child once had. If only we had another chance.
I do not want to give the impression that the parent is the sole one responsible for this the saddest of circumstances, as too often the child also has his part in this scenario. However, we must remember at all times, that we are the adult and we are dealing with children. We are the ones that should be in control in all areas, love, discipline, providing our child with food and clothing and all in all, preparing them to cope in this complicated world of ours. Too often, I've seen the parent lower themselves to the same level as that of their child.
I wish I had a happy ending, but I don't. From the minute that baby is born, know that it is not your possession, but a new individual soul that has entered this world. You have been given a most wonderful privilege and responsibility, that of loving, guiding and teaching that child to grow into the best person he can possibly be. For those of us that are at the other end of the spectrum looking back, we hope it is not too late. The love and trust can be achieved again, or maybe for the first time, but it will take time.
The most important thing to remember is no matter what, always love your child. And always keep the door open.
While physically and materially our children lack for nothing, emotionally, they are barren.
This article was posted on June 30, 2006