The Bermuda family in crisis
Crumbling families is a worldwide problem that is eating away at the core of the moral fibre of community infrastructures at an alarming rate. Trying to reverse this trend, which threatens what should be the anchor of society, is a global challenge with no easy solutions in sight.
Acknowledging the problem is a step in the right direction, but the pace of life today is packed with complex lifestyle changes, plus a kaleidoscope of negative distractions that amount to challenges never seen before — even in the best of families.
It is important to emphasise that, despite the many stumbling blocks that include economic troubles, youth peer pressure, cyberspace technology — along with beneath-the-surface family situations where illegal drugs, alcohol abuse and domestic violence exist — we still have parents doing their utmost to instil values that have proved successful in the past in negotiating difficult times along life's journey. Those values never change.
Although there are success stories with many young people through perseverance by parents, teachers and guardians, Bermuda is far from being out of the woods in keeping the family structure as the anchor for community strength.
This could very well be Bermuda's greatest challenge because disintegration of the family unit would be the beginning of the demise of the community family. This could lead to a slide into the abyss of disorder and social mayhem.
Serious concerns were recently expressed by senior magistrate Juan Wolffe that an increase of domestic violence and issues over childcare could be related to an erosion of values. It was also noted that Family Court has been kept very busy dealing with escalating complaints, and it is a situation that needs closer scrutiny. That in itself is a challenge because throughout generations most families feel what happens within their walls is not the business of outsiders. Common logic dictates that no family are exempt from laws designed to protect, whether something occurs in the home or in public.
The home should be the place where young minds are given the tools to meet the many later challenges that are unavoidable in the journey of life. Those tools must include respect for discipline and order, and a commitment to positive attitudes that will enable them to pass such values to the next generation.
Without early guidance on good values, a young mind could be vulnerable to being swallowed up by an ocean of negative elements, which we know exist in just about every society. It is always a giant task trying to rescue a mind that has slipped through the cracks and which has gravitated towards negative behaviour and eventual confrontation with law enforcement.
Most of us have heard the “they are always blaming my child” instead of a willingness to accept that something could be in need of attention in connection with certain behavioural traits. Much has changed in recent decades in family discipline, and the importance of why it matters in daily interacting with others.
The family structure and its importance to Bermuda's future could be considered a bigger issue than the present controversy surrounding government plans to build a badly needed new airport to replace an outdated, crumbling structure that is not the front-door image to keep Bermuda on the front lines of global competition as a resort of class and distinction. That, of course, is another story.
For the moment, all of the island should take the learned senior magistrate's observations about concerns with the Bermuda family as crucial in helping to at least have a serious discussion about laying the groundwork for the future. There will be no magic wand to wish away family issues that end up before the courts. Even the courts can do only so much. The real work must be done, yes, within those walls, with more responsible parenting — and that will also not be an overnight achievement.
No one is perfect, including the best of parents and teachers, but as long as there is an effort to provide good guidance in an atmosphere of affection and love, it will be a priceless move in the right direction.
Our children really are the future and how we treat them could determine the kind of Bermuda that takes shape for the next generation. This subject must never be swept under the social carpet simply because it is unpleasant.
Facing the truth will benefit us all.