Chapter 22 » 22.66

Parents and children

The needs of children

Small babies cling to the mother’s breast. They need comfort, warmth and cherishing, yet they can equally kick and scream to demonstrate their independent will. From the cradle to maturity the desire to belong and, at the same time, the need to assert our independent existence are in constant tension as we discover new facets of ourselves. At first a child sees the world as an extension of itself, but it learns quite quickly that other people have to be taken into account – either because parent figures enforce obedience or because the child wants to please those who nurture and bring it up. Whether the early environment is loving and caring or whether the child feels unwanted or rejected, each stage of growth is accompanied by joy and painful set-backs, by love and sometimes violent feelings of hatred or rage. A child that feels it is understood and loved will find it easier to develop inner security…

Development of personality is a continuing process – never completed. A child may be clear about its needs and wants, but then come the often tumultuous years of adolescence, of coming to terms with new and powerful sexual drives. Teenagers begin to realise themselves as separate and different from parents and friends. It is no easy task to live up to ideals and at the same time to accommodate rival claims and impulses. It is at this time that Quaker children often experience particular difficulties in adjusting to a world beyond their own home where values, standards and expectations are different from those they have grown up with. Do we try to understand the difficulties, stresses and failures of our growing children and make them fully aware that, come what may, they are still loved? This does not mean that we give them unlimited licence. They still need an adequate framework within which it is safe to experiment and rebel.

Rosalind Priestman, 1985

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