Suffer the children

While children can be pretty resilient, there are certain circumstances from which recovery is challenging. Two local situations involving children will test the mettle of those involved. These prompted me to think about when intervention is appropriate and when it’s not.

In my neighborhood, two children, ages 3 and 5, were discovered outside in their pajamas. A passerby alerted authorities. After investigating, police discovered their mother was dead. The death, first termed suspicious, was reclassified as murder. The children were taken into protective custody and the house became a crime scene. Experiencing their mother’s death and being uprooted from their home is a tragedy. What did the children hear and see? Were the children exposed to violence? During a public meeting, police said the children were safe. Safe is a relative term when the children are separated forever from their primary caregiver. Their sense of normalcy and safety has been shattered. While the children will ultimately find another home, what is the impact on their emotional well-being? And those who live nearby wonder whether the killing was random or targeted and what that means for everyone’s safety…

In a second situation, two children, ages 10 and 6, were walking home when a concerned citizen phoned 911. The children were apprehended and detained.  It took police hours to notify the parents; 5½ hours total before the children were released from custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). The parents, advocates of raising free-range children, had given permission for the children to play and walk home by themselves.  The parents believe that allowing independence will lead to self-sufficiency.

In the first case, the children clearly needed the help of authorities. Their age and the circumstances made them vulnerable. In the second case, it appears the police and CPS were trying to make a point, at the expense of the children.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Helen Keller

How do we ensure children develop life skills, confidence and resilience?  Should a 5-year-old know to call 911? Can a 10-year-old walk his sister home from the park? Those abilities and attributes don’t magically appear on a birthday.  Age is a number that does not necessarily indicate readiness or maturity. At age 10, military children can get their first ID card which allows independent access to installations and is considered a rite of passage. The American Red Cross’ babysitting course welcomes participants as young as age 11. Different states set age rules for driving. You can vote and enter the military at 18; and drink at 21. Chronology may guide, but maturity follows a different time-table. By age, some who qualify as adults are unable to function and accept adult responsibilities. Rules and legalities should not trump parents’ assessment of a child’s ability and maturity.Rachel jumping

What is responsible parenting and when are children old enough to be unsupervised? When should authorities get involved? The government has guidelines, which are arbitrary, as I discovered at the birthday party for a 99-year-old. She needs help with bathing and other life skills but is still driving and just got her driver’s license renewed. Parents should be able to raise their children within reasonable limits. When necessary, authorities can step in to protect against abuse and neglect. Teach your children well.

IndexCardCure™: action trumps aspiration.

© Joan S Grey, 27 Apr 2015


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