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A need for something to hold onto

March 20, 2011
By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center

Just about everyone has heard that the 12 steps to recovery involve spirituality and connectedness, an acceptance of a Supreme Power.

So is it so surprising to learn that children and adolescents are failing to develop empathy, to make moral commitments or develop the ability to love? Is it so surprising to learn that because today's young people aren't connected, don't have a concept of their own spirituality, there are larger numbers of youth who are suffering anxiety, attention deficit disorder, conduct disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts? That physical ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and ulcers, result from emotional problems?

The Dartmouth Medical School, YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) and the Institute for American Values spearheaded a commission that presented a study and report, Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. They connected with children's doctors, research scientists and mental health and youth services professionals for the study that looked at children and teens affected by a widespread and deepening crisis: "in the midst of unprecedented material affluence, large and growing numbers of U.S. children and adolescents are failing to flourish."

Youth are suffering more depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, conduct disorders and thoughts of suicide as well as physical ailments that are directly related to emotional problems: heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.

The report advises that there are unacceptably high "rates of related behavioral problems such as substance abuse, school dropout, interpersonal violence, premature sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy." Some experts are saying that youth are unconnected to other people, to deep moral values and spiritual meaning.

"Parenting trends that have evolved over the last 30 years promote the development of unattached, uncommunicative, learning-impaired and uncontrollable children," writes Dr. Robert Shaw in The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children.

Consider the following portions of an essay, "Facing the Problems of Youth."

"Education today is not purely a question of the education of youth; it is a question of the education of parentsbecause so many parents, I find, have lost their hold on their children. One reason for this is that they insist on laying down the law without allowing a free intellectual interchange of ideas between themselves and the younger generation. We have to be prepared to put our thinking across to them. We cannot simply expect them to say, 'Our older people have had experience and they have proved to themselves certain things, therefore they are right.' That isn't the way the best kind of young people think. They want to experience for themselves. I find they are perfectly willing to talk to older people, but they don't want to talk to older people who are shocked by their ideas, nor do they want to talk to older people who are not realistic

"But if the relationship is such that youth has no desire to talk to older people, then, I think it is entirely impossible to help the youth of today-and they need help badly. I think they are very glad to have it, too, when it is given in a spirit of helpfulness, not self-righteousness

"I have been thinking about a great deal of late: the necessity for us as parents, as teachers, as older people, to put our minds on the problems of youth, to face realities, to face the world as it is and the lives that they have to live-not as we wish they were, but as they are-and, having done that, to give our sympathetic help in every way that we can," wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in an essay originally published in National Parent-Teacher Magazine (February 1935).

Back to the commission report, "Denying or ignoring spiritual need of adolescents may end up creating a void in their lives that either devolves into depression or is filled by other forms of questing and challenge, such as drinking, unbridled consumerism, petty crime, sexual precocity, or flirtations with violence."

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related issues. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail,



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