Childhood Dangers

2008-06-17 00:00

CHILD-REARING is the most challenging of tasks for which new parents are completely untrained and unprepared unless they themselves happen to have grown up as the eldest sibling in a large family. Parental image and identity is closely tied to a child’s development, and in their attempts to be the perfect parents, many tend to be over-

protective of their offspring. These are the so-called “helicopter” parents.

Admittedly society seems to be a more dangerous place today than once it was. High-profile incidents such as the as yet unsolved abduction of Madeleine McCann in Portugal send a frisson of horror throughout the parent community worldwide. But her fate does not necessarily mean that it was unsafe for a nine-year-old boy to ride the New York subway

system on his own. Statistically he was at no great risk.

The problem of striking a reasonable balance between undue cosseting and reckless exposure to real danger is added to by the rules and regulations of the nanny state, particularly in Europe. A local council in England, for instance, ordered the removal of a swing which had hung from the branch of a great tree since 1890 and on which generations of children had played on the grounds that the branch might break. And, nearer home, a former city council ordered the removal from the open land opposite the entrance to the Botanical Gardens of swings, slides, an old roller and other paraphernalia played on by local children for years, presumably on safety grounds.

South Africa is indeed a dangerous place, particularly for young girls. But there is unavoidable risk attached to life and if children are to be prepared adequately for life, they must be exposed to some risks and learn to take informed decisions as to the risks they choose to take or not to take.

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