Many parents hope to succeed through their children, while using the same beliefs that guaranteed their failures: that children will become well-adjusted when pressured by criticism, discounting, and shame; that control teaches skills in human relationships; that spontaneity and joy are suspect.” B. F. Stan Monaghan
At this time of year, it seems fitting to begin this blog, with its spotlight on those individuals who may have a very different year, a population which is too often invisible, and yet which permeates our society:
- The one in five children who will go to bed hungry tonight, and the one in three families whose housing is tenuous and unsafe (1)
- The half a million children in foster care – who will spend, on average, over 2 years in system limbo – and the millions of children who will be found to be abused and neglected (2)
- The nearly 2 million women and men who will be victims of intimate partner violence this year, and the millions of children who will witness it (3)
- The 1.5 million children and adolescents who will be victims of crime in their schools (4), and the millions of children who will be exposed to violence in their communities
- The 2.4 million youth who will be arrested – up to 90% of whom have histories of childhood adversity (5)
- The as many as one in four children who will continue to grow up in a home with a parent who is stricken by mental illness or substance abuse (6)
- The many millions of adults who once were these children, and the many millions of adults who are parenting these children.
Bullying has been front and center in the public arena for some time now. In recent years, schools have promoted a zero tolerance for schoolyard bullying. Guidelines and resources are more readily available to cope with the workplace bully, as well as for cyber bullying that happens on the computer superhighway.
But what if your child’s teacher is the bully? Recent research shows that 2% of children are bullied by a teacher in their lifetime. Teachers who are bullies have the same characteristics of other bullies. They are sadistic and petty, gaining self-esteem through the humiliation of others. In the school environment, a teacher-bully will shame a child in front of classmates, often using their position of authority in abusive ways. The teacher-bully may make an example of a child, sending him out of the room or to the corner. Maybe an extra assignment or denying your child recess becomes the vehicle for bullying.
I had a teacher who was a bully. I was in the 10th grade and she made my life miserable. She was my Spanish teacher, and all year long she picked on me, calling on me to answer impossible questions, throwing me out of the class for making noise and even accusing me of cheating on the Regents exam. Luckily, I had a reputation as being a very quiet student, never getting into any trouble or mischief. I hardly spoke in class and was painfully shy.
Administrators responsible for overseeing my “discipline” knew there was a bullying situation going on. Unfortunately, there were two choices. Either drop Spanish and not graduate or stay in the class, since there were no other Spanish classes to transfer into. The lesser of two evils was to stay in the class. And though I had support from my parents and from my friends, the teacher’s bullying was traumatic for me. I was young and ill-equipped to deal with the humiliation and accusations. Like a deer in headlights, I just stood there, helpless.
In the United States alone, there are estimates that approximately 3.5 million people are homeless and 1.35 million of them are children. Yes, that’s over one-third of the homeless population! Homelessness effects teens in many different ways. Fifty percent of homeless teens age 16 and older, drop out of school. Many resort to using drugs which can lead to addiction as a means of coping. They lack food and clothing, need supplies, medical and dental treatment and the list goes on and on. These teens lack the major thing most human’s desire – stability.
With the state of America’s economy and the jobless rate holding at about nine plus percent, teens are finding it increasingly more difficult to find a job. The jobs that teens once held are now being sought out by older and more qualified applicants who are without employment. And with the increasingly high foreclosure rates, so many kids have lost their homes and their families are forced to the streets. Many families are scampering to find a place to live, moving in with family members or sending their kids to other places to live as they search for a job.
Many teens living on the streets are homeless because they ran away from home. According to the National Runaway Switchboard, “Every day between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America. One out of every seven children will run away from home before the age of 18.” Approximately forty seven percent of these kids report conflict at home as the primary reason for leaving. Other reported reasons for running away include: School Problems, Substance Abuse, Abuse (physical, sexual, and verbal), Pregnancy, and Mental Health Problems.
Regardless of the reason, we have entirely too many youth living on the streets of America. I watched the interviews this past week on the Homeless Man with a Golden Voice and the outpour of compassion from the American people was/is truly amazing. I thought, “What if we take that same compassion and give it to our homeless kids and their families?” There are many things that we can do to help out the homeless youth in our nation and each action does make a difference.