Title: Children then and now
Date: 02-Aug-2013

It was the 1920’s. A young educated man wanted to get married. He had lost his parents at an early age. He had a job and now he wanted to marry a young lady who would be a good homemaker. He knew where to find her. A trip to Convent Light Street, Penang, an interview with the good nuns and soon he had a bride from one of the girls who was in the orphanage. The nuns had trained her well and she became a good housewife and mother before she passed away from illness. This was my father’s first wife.

Society back then was evolving at a slower pace. Yes, poverty and broken homes existed and shelter home took in some of the disadvantaged children. The boys were taught a trade or, if academically inclined, managed to go on to secondary school and get a job. Girls were taught the skills of being homemakers. Generally, there were clear - cut expectations of roles for men and women, boundaries for social behaviour, job opportunities and movement up the social strata.

Now let’s fast forward to 2013. Poverty and broken homes still exist. Some of the disadvantaged children are still taken in by shelter home. But that’s where the similarity ends. The children in the shelter home are from Gen Y and Gen Z. These children are different from those in shelter home in 1920. The parents of today’s young children are mostly from Gen X. In the past, extended families helped to raise the children and helped to cushion the stresses of growing up. But, today, most Gen Y and Gen Z children are raised in nuclear families by Gen X parents who are not well equipped to handle the stress of earning a living in the fast paced world today. Inflation has shot up reducing the buying power of the family today. In the past, the father was the breadwinner while the mother was the one who was always at home. Latchkey children were unheard of. But today, many children come home to an empty house as both parents are working outside the home.

There is a change in the value system. Instant gratification ( I must have it now!) seems to prevail. Generally, there is greater emphasis on acquiring possessions. People tend to rate others by what they have. Gen X parents who value this, or Gen X or Gen Y children who pick this up from friends at school or the mass media tend to feel more and more stressed out. They want to be successful in the eyes of society. Because of poverty, poor management of money and the desire for instant gratification, many young parents experience stress, get angry and take out their frustrations on the innocent children. Child abuse is on the rise and with no extended family to cushion the frustration, children become the victims.

Added to these, children today are confused with rather fluid boundaries on what is right and wrong. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. There are more opportunities for these young minds to be bombarded by sexual images on television, computer, and in pictures.

Have you ever counted the number of times a child that is loved is hugged, kissed and lovingly caressed by members of his or her family from birth till his/her teen years? Now look at children who are taken into shelter home. They come in with pain in their hearts. They have been abused or exposed to dangers that put them at risk. Psychologists generally say that the child’s experiences from birth to the first five years are crucial to the emotional well-being of the child. It is challenging indeed to raise a child in a shelter home today. The child way of thinking is different from the adults in his/her life. The child has been hurt. But this child needs to be educated so that he or she can go on to further his/her education and be a useful member of society. The child usually does not have a good role model from his/her family members, and so the child needs to be exposed to good, healthy values to guide him/her through life. But being a Gen Y or Gen Z child, who is exposed to other value systems and who questions authority, it is so important that child minders and home staff equip themselves with the skills of dealing with the younger generation. The child too has to go through therapy to help gain a healthy value system. Shelter Home has realised the importance of equipping both staff and children with these skills. In 2011 all Home Staff were given training and further training will be conducted as and when the need arises. It is a never ending process, even till today, we are still sending our caregivers for training and development, as we believe that it is crucial and part and parcel of our continuous self-improvement. Our aim is to provide nothing but the very best for these children.

The children are given therapy sessions by trained personnel to help them understand themselves and others better.

Today child care in shelter home is not just about feeding them and giving them basic skills training. It is more rebuilding of young lives and for that we need your understanding and constant support. Thank you for being with us and walking with us through this difficult but certainly most rewarding journey. Your willingness to give a helping hand means so much to us.

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