Last week, I talked about parenting and how it influences child development. I got some feedbacks which make it necessary that I write a brief addendum and make some further clarifications.
Specifically, I wish to first respond to the comments of some of my readers from Australia and Nigeria who talked about the need to talk about prayer and parenting. I must say that I understand the issues mooted. However, there is a need to separate what is empirical from what is only ideological. Prayer is relative in terms of who is saying the prayers and to whom the prayer is offered. That is why I actually mentioned “divine inspiration” as one of the ways of developing sound parenting skills. Divinity connotes being Godly or Godlike.
Divine inspiration comes from spiritual experiences which may or may not involve religiosity. Although both religiosity and spirituality are used interchangeably and are interwoven, there is a need to say that it is best to separate religiosity from spirituality. Religious nature is practiced while the spiritual nature is experienced. That is why the concept of daily spiritual experience is recognized as measurable, whilst specific religious practices or activities can also be measured. It will not be ideal to make a “blanket statement” that prayer helps parenting when there are different forms of religious practices that involve praying differently and to different entities. Some people in response to distorted religious injunctions end up engaging in harmful practices as parents. An example is the story of a 9 year old boy from Ogun State in Nigeria whose father chained like an animal and almost starved to death under the guise of correcting his misconduct. In spite of the father’s so called religious nature, it was obvious to everyone that something was obviously wrong somewhere and with someone.
I also wish to expatiate some of the factors that can affect parenting. Illness in the parent can seriously negatively impact the parent child relationship. If one of the parents has a chronic illness, it goes a long way to affect family resources (material and financial), family time together etc. A sick parent might not be able to spend quality time with his or her children. When the children witness their parents being ill, it can also affect their psychological development. The illness might even result into the death of one of the parents which further puts the children in a prolonged emotional disequilibrium. Also, illness in the child can also affect the disposition of the parent to the child.
I currently do some volunteering at a welfare home where abandoned children are taken care of by the Government and philanthropists. Only one out of every ten of these abandoned children is free from any form of chronic illness. When some parents note that their children are ill, they just simply walk out with them and return home without them. Some parents just travel to another state and leave the child there. Several studies have shown that parents find it difficult to bond with their children when these children are ill. With regards to illness either in the parent or the child, there is a need for us to understand that we have to strengthen our formal and informal psychosocial support systems.
The extended family network which used to be our strong points in this part of the world is gradually becoming a thing of the past. The formal psychosocial support system is the sole responsibility of the Government (Federal, State and Local). The current framework of administering resources has always left very little to cater for the welfare of less privileged families. In other climes where the welfare of the less privileged is sacrosanct, allocation of funds to meet the needs of these families is made paramount. A civilized society that has no provision to cater for the less privileged is a misnomer.
With respect to civilization and parenting, the basic understanding is that civilization should translate to development and sophistication. However, it is sad that current trends suggest that some aspects of our “so called” civilization might entail taking 2 steps forward and 10 steps backward. Some parents because of the nature of their job end up leaving their children to be cared for by persons order than them. When the person that spends the better part of the day with the child is the househelp, the child ends up learning his/her first lessons from the househelp. The maid or servant ends up becoming the pseudo-parent. There is a need for parents to try as much as possible to be highly involved in the lives of the children. Parents must never allow their children too much liberty. For instance some parents make the mistake of allowing their children unbridled access to the internet or the cable/satellite television stations. This is like playing Russian roulette with the formative years of their children. The internet nowadays is loaded with all sorts of junk material. Never allow your children to surf the internet alone or without limits.
I recently asked a group of parents if any of them will allow their children to go sit down or play in a pub or a club where people are doing drugs and all other social vices (even if the child will not join them in doing these). None of them answered affirmatively. If you will not do this , then you shouldn’t allow your children unguided access to the internet or the TV to view these scenes because with time, they will want to experiment or practice what they have seen done. Ensure you know what your children are watching on the TV or the content they are surfing on the internet.
In these current times, parenting has to be taken seriously. The multifaceted influences that the children are exposed to make it imperative that every parent who desires the best for their children’s safety needs to ensure that the interest(s) of the children are prioritized when critical decisions need to be made in the determination of issues that can potentially impair the cohesion of the family. These issues include job placement of parents and education of the children. The family needs to be kept together as much as possible when this is feasible. The parent also has to be in control as well as be in charge of their children. A lot of parents are in charge but have left the control of their children to others!
Next week, I will be discussing a very critical issue about different characteristics of children. It’s titled “Some Parents Do Ave ‘Em”. Kindly make it a date with me. Until then, remain safe and sane!
Dr Ola Ibigbami is a Specialist Mental Health Physician who currently practices in Osun State.
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