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Bermuda’s children are suffering the most

Bermuda’s children are being subjected to increasing levels of emotional and physical trauma as the recession contiues to take its toll on the Island’s families.

Martha Dismont, the Executive Director of the Family Centre, said agencies had seen a rise in the number of families ‘on the cusp of breaking down’ with child abuse cases also increasing.

Listing a variety of heart-wrenching stories, Ms Dismont explained how; children were being exposed to drugs and guns from a young age; where subjected to explicit scenes of sexual activity; and were increasingly being left with adults who don’t have their best interests at heart.

While acknowledging that before the recession sit was not unusual for families “not to pay enough attention to their children”, Ms Dismont said the associated problems have escalated to areas that are far more damaging.

“They [children] see sexual activity between adults, and I know of cases of children being in the same room with family members where the adults were having sex,” she said. “There’s trauma associated with that, and we’re seeing the results of it.

“We’re seeing many more abuse [cases] where adults don’t pay attention to who they bring into the lives of their children. They’re too busy trying to find work, or working late hours, and so they leave their children with questionable people.

“We’ve talked about children attending house parties, and the violence that goes with it, where mal-behaviour that comes from smoking weed, or having weapons for protection, has become the norm.”

The Family Centre boss also revealed that parents are attempting to justify their actions by blaming the economic conditions that they find themselves in. And, often, the lack of any support from family members is blamed for mistakes that are made.

“For some reason, some parents are finding a reason to justify that they cannot be with their children, and pay attention to what they need,” said Ms Dismont. “You hear them say things like ‘I don’t have work’, or, ‘I don’t have family members to support me’.

“There are a lot of people walking around with a lot of trauma, and they just can’t deal with raising a child. By trauma I mean unaddressed emotional problems; it’s a huge issue.

“There’s also many people walking around who were abused as children, it was never addressed and left unresolved. Unaddressed emotional issues makes it very difficult to be in a healthy space with a child, and meet their needs at the same time.”

As Bermuda recognises the International Day of Families today, Ms Dismont also painted a gloomy picture for the future of the Island’s families. With children who reach childhood considering abnormal behaviour to be the norm, the knock on effects for the next generation could be damaging.

“What concerns me even more is that we have children reaching adulthood who have grown up in environments where abnormal behaviour was the norm,” she said.

“We see teenagers who grew up in homes where either a life of violence, or drug dealing, was the norm, and all that goes with it. Some have grown up in families with gang member who are siblings, or parents, or both,” she said.

More often than not she said the pursuit of money through ill gotten gains is fuelled by the need to fulfil basic human needs. “It’s called survival,” she said.

And she pointed to the many cases of young women with multiple children by more than one father as another key issue because it’s all linked to the home environment and how children are raised.

“Any young person that chooses to feel it’s okay to have two, three or four babies is lacking a sense of self esteem,” she said.

“For the young mother it also has to do with a need to feel loved, and needed, which still goes back to the issue of nurturance. Quite often they don’t know how to nurture because they haven’t been nurtured themselves.”

Ultimately she said it is a community issue because many end on financial assistance at the taxpayers expense.

Limited education means limited finances, and the increasing demand, she said, threatens to transform government assistance into a welfare system.

She urged residents to acknowledge that there’s a problem and then become more aware the impact on Bermuda’s society.

“Once you start being more aware that’s got to grow, we probably couldn’t do this 20 years ago because people were simply just not ready. Too many things put them in denial, but I still believe we’re making progress.

In terms of dollars she said: “The recession has caused us to hold people’s feet to the fire and have a different work ethic because of the survival mode.

“People realise now that there are lots of people in front of them looking for a job and we need to maintain that especially when people are losing their jobs.

“Some of us saw the signs years ago but this day gives us the opportunity to reflect on what it takes to build strong families in Bermuda.

“We’re still very materialistic and lack substance but we have to promote healthy mentalities and the recession has forced people to get creative on making dollars. But there’s still so much more to do.”

While hopeful that awareness will help turn the tide she urged residents to remember that tomorrow’s children will be the product of the environment they grew up in.

Martha Dismont
<B>International Day of Families</B>

Bermuda joins countries around the world today in recognition of the International Day of Families. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, May 15 has been designated as a day of reflection on the importance the international community attaches to families.

It provides an opportunity to promote awareness of family related issues.

“It is also an opportunity to reflect on how they are affected by social and economic trends — and what we can do to strengthen families in response,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

“Unemployment is forcing many young people, often eager for independence, to rely on their parents longer than they would have hoped.

“The lack of affordable and quality childcare is complicating efforts by parents in dual-earner families to combine their work and home obligations. Inadequate pensions and care for older persons demands more attention as we succeed in our goal of extending lives.

“These challenges make family support more important than ever — for the young person seeking a job while living with their parents, for the grandparent who relies on their children for shelter and care, and for the many members of extended families who take on childcare responsibilities.”

To build “a healthier world for all” he called on governments and civil society to “support initiatives that bring people together across generations”. A series of “awareness-raising events” are being held worldwide today.

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Published May 15, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm)

Bermuda’s children are suffering the most

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