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'Mail' Newspaper Articles

Focal Point (for publishing—09/09/08)

Parents On Trial

Last week Mem Fox wrote an article claiming that parents who put their children in childcare as babies, were guilty of child abuse. Now that caused a stir. The talk back lines ran hot with supporters and opposers. Her argument was that if we really want to bring children into the world so that we can be parents and have the highest expectations that our children will grow to be worthy contributors to society, then we need to invest in them to the extent that it takes. She suggested that to then put the child in care was to abuse the child in terms of their right to grow into the healthiest individuals emotionally and psychologically. More radical callers even likened the debate to the one on abortion. Choosing an option for the child without the child’s consent. Of course we do have laws to protect children from irresponsible parents, e.g. compulsory seat restraints in cars and the impending ‘in-car’ smoking laws. However many parents are under extreme pressure to ‘just survive’, and say that they are flat-out just paying the mortgage, feeding the family and running the family car. I guess the debate will not be resolved any time soon and some battling parents will be left feeling guilty. This guilt will lie on top of the daily battle. Other parents who choose a career over caring for their own children will probably assuage their guilt through buying ‘things’ and compensating for their lack of physical presence in their children’s lives. I reserve my judgement because I started parenting children in a different era. Men worked and women stayed at home to ‘house–keep’ and care for the children – but that was then. However what I do know now is that as a counsellor I hear that the constant cry of my clients from thirteen through to over fifty, that they wished their parents had spent more time with them. The uniform cry is that they sought their attention, approval and love but it was not there. Any woman who comes to me with a troubled younger life, I ask the question, ‘Where was your father between the ages of eleven and fourteen?’ The answer is invariably; ‘He wasn’t there’. Now some of these fathers were actually in the house daily but the children did not feel that they were ‘there’ for them. To my questions, ‘what did your father and mother say when they complimented or even criticized you?’, many answer ‘nothing’. Whatever track we take in those early years it will be important to let our children know that they are loved and special to us. We will need to spend one on one time with them so that they get to feel that their parents are really interested in them. New bikes, taking them to footy, giving guitar lessons and taking them to basketball is great, but what about just ‘you and them’ time. A hurting dad recently showed me a letter from his fifteen-year-old daughter, which included this heart wrenching angry line. ‘I think the reason I feel so much hatred against you is that in the past you never made it to my school functions because you had a gig on.’ From my Christian perspective I understand children to be gifts from God. We can’t help our genetic stamp on them but we have an enormous responsibility to mould and shape them into the young men and women they have the potential to be. Parenting is a serious business that requires dedication – it doesn’t just happen. Be proactive but not driven by guilt.

Graeme Dawson 
Co-ordinator Focal Point & Valley Care Counsellor & Manager
Inter-Church Action 0409 517273.


Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009