Displaying items by tag: Children
Year-end school vacations will be lengthened in several countries to increase the time for social distancing. Many believe this policy will create more stress for parents juggling jobs and family. A national survey of 2,559 parents in June found a positive side for families and marriages in pandemic lockdown. Couples considering divorcing dropped by a third, and another survey revealed 25% of parents were getting on better with their children, with just 4% reporting worsened relationships. The media reported these findings as ‘weird but true’. However while lockdown affirmed marriage commitment, one in five cohabiting parents believed their relationship had worsened. They were more likely to be unhappy, get on each other’s nerves, or quarrel. Also, when schools were closed, many children began to appreciate the privilege of going to school and enjoyed having more time with their parents, improving family closeness during the corona time.
How can we worship and share our lives, when the two ways of being together - in person and online - are often really difficult for families? Making online church work for children means including them. Six-year-old J says, ‘I like talking to everyone on Zoom after the service.’ A mother said, ‘It’s good when someone asks them questions, and listens. They don’t like listening to adult conversations.’ A three-year-old now celebrates the eucharist with the Vicar with his own cup, plate, and bread. Rev’d Mo Baldwin makes Zoom interactive. Children have treasure hunts, breakout-room challenges like artwork, or designing something. The families also record elements of the service. Beth’s 12-year-old daughter coordinates Kids Church Online, including creating worship herself and encouraging other families to make things and send them in. Rev’d Stephen Gardner reads a bedtime story online every night. A mum said, ‘We all cuddle up together to watch.’
A mother is taking a gender clinic to court to prevent it giving sex-change drugs to her autistic daughter. She wants to prevent youngsters making 'catastrophic' decisions that they live to regret. The woman, called 'Mrs A' for legal reasons, fears her 16-year-old daughter will be fast-tracked for transgender medical treatment once she is seen by clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service in London. She says they will simply 'affirm' the girl's belief - mistaken in her mother's opinion - that she is really a boy. In reality, Mrs A believes her daughter's desire to be male is driven by having Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. She said, 'This is bigger than just my child. The whole narrative is that if your child is confused about their gender, then transition is the only course of action. There doesn't seem to be any discussion of other possibilities. That's frightening.'
Some children may be feeling excited about the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions. But it is also normal for children and young people to feel anxious about it. During lockdown they have spent long periods of time at home and are living with uncertainty about the coming weeks and months. Moving out of lockdown might be worrying, and some may find it difficult to adjust. Before the pandemic some were already suffering bullying, cyber bullying, school challenges, or relationship challenges. Coming out of lockdown for these more vulnerable children may cause them to fear meeting up with others at school. They may need some time to adjust to the new situation. Also some parents will be struggling to decide whether their child should go back to school at the moment. Pray that they will feel comfortable in deciding what is right for the entire family.
In response to US parents not knowing what to do with their children who had been sent home from closed schools, Verses for Zion (VfZ)was born, a biblically-rooted project connecting Christian children to Israel, as an opportunity to engage them in a multigenerational project with parents and grandparents. Now, as summer is starting and schools that had opened are closing again, it offers parents a way to add meaning and substance to their children's extended vacation. VfZ, the brainchild of an Orthodox Israeli Jew and an evangelical Christian pastor in Texas, aims to give children the opportunity to learn more about God, His Word and His people. One mother said, ‘It entrenches children’s faith and deepens their understanding of God, the Bible and how that relates to us today through Israel.’
A children's illustrator and an author started a conversation about death, after being told the subject was ‘off the table’. ‘Where is Uncle Al?’ is for 4- to 7-year-olds. Author Eva Hubs and artist Sarah Harrison published the book after being encouraged by health professionals. The book is about hope not darkness, from a Christian and Buddhist perspective. It centres on Lily, who hears about Uncle Al but is given different answers when she asks where he is. Sarah says we pretend to know about death and stop exploring it, so Lily asks adults questions that they find difficult to answer. A childhood bereavement charity comments that stories play an important role in helping children make sense of death. The book’s pictures and words feed children's imaginations, making them feel less isolated, when they are very alone with their grief.
The Centre for Global Policy (CGP) has called on European governments to intervene urgently on behalf of 750 children of EU member states citizenship who are held in IS detention camps in Syria. CGP’s latest report said that urgent intervention and support was needed. The report, entitled ‘The children of IS detainees - Europe's dilemma’, was based on research that focused on two camps in northeast Syria where 70,000 women and children are being detained. At least 12,000 of the detainees are foreign nationals. While public opinion in EU member states is strongly opposed to repatriating IS members and affiliates, the report emphasised, ‘Leaving them in these camps will not keep anyone safe’.
Many of England's pupils are set to miss six months of lessons. There is a call for the Government to organise a task force to prevent the potential inequality around children's education. Pray for practical, workable plans to ensure that children can continue to reach their full potential. English schools and colleges must submit their estimated grades for GCSE and A-levels by 12 June. Pupils will be ranked from highest to lowest in achievement. Exam regulators have issued guidance on how to make the process as fair and accurate as possible. Many pupils are nervous about their estimated grades. Pray for those unsure of achieving the grade 4 or above needed in maths and English. May peace replace panic. Plans for all primary children to return before the summer have been dropped. The education secretary said there was a cautious, phased return to school: ‘if schools had the capacity, they could take more pupils if they chose.’
Home should be the safest place. But for child victims of online sexual exploitation, it is far from safe. Lockdown has meant being locked in with their abusers, with no way to escape. As you read this, western predators from the UK are paying to livestream the sexual exploitation of children from the Philippines. Tragically, this vile crime is growing. In almost two thirds of cases in the Philippines, children are abused by their own families - like Maarko, who, aged just seven, became a victim performing ‘shows’ for sex offenders in the UK to watch. The pandemic creates a perfect storm for increased child sexual exploitation online. Children are locked in with their abusers, and western predators are at home with more time to spend online. Global law enforcement is reporting that child sexual abuse sites are crashing due to increased demand during lockdown.
The big debate over the past few days has been whether it is safe to open schools to children other than those of key workers or classed as vulnerable. Many are saying, ‘We need to get children back into education, but a locally managed approach using testing and tracing is the only way.’ There will never be ‘no risk’. In a world where Covid-19 remains present in the community, it is about how we reduce that risk, just as we do with other kinds of daily dangers, like driving and cycling. To judge whether schools are safe enough to open, there need to be data with which to make informed decisions. Pray for concurrent accurate monitoring to be developed at local levels to tell us what the daily number of new cases and rate of transmission is. May actual, reliable numbers be what drives policy.