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1.3 Well-being

It isn’t hard to see children in care have problems and issues most children never experience. Their troubles are varied but most all are suffering the effects and trauma of maltreatment. What’s more, their difficulties are compounded by the effects of separation from their neighborhoods, their schools, their families, and their personal cultural ties.

Were that not enough, the children’s lives are further disrupted by having to live in new homes, probably in new neighborhoods, with strangers. Virtually all of the people, places, and things the children have known change at the very time they are most vulnerable. To fully appreciate the effects of all of this change on developing children, you need to see children are multi-dimensional people.

Children’s development starts with their physical, doing dimension. It incorporates their physical bodies, their potentials and capacities to do and behave, and most of what is visible in terms of their actions and activities.

Part of each parent’s role is to help his children grow to respect and appreciate their physical abilities and skills, to know how to behave in a variety of situations, and to recognize and utilize their physical capacities and potentials. This physical, doing dimension starts at infancy and is central to children’ adjustment throughout their journey to adulthood.

The emotional dimension is equally important. Here are found feelings, fears and frustrations, sadness and joy, disappointment and excitement, love and hate, fun and futility. Growing children experience all of these emotions and need to learn how to interpret them, how to express them, and how to manage them.

For example, children must learn to express anger without having tantrums, to deal with despair and disappointment without becoming destructively depressed, to express love and joy without getting into harmful or inappropriate relationships. Within this dimension, children must learn to deal with their emotions and learn how to express their feelings effectively and appropriately.

Around the age of four or five the moral, spiritual dimension begins to emerge. Effectively helping children develop a solid sense of right and wrong, good and bad, requires their parents are clear about their own values and beliefs in these areas. Success in this dimension is critical to success in the social dimension emerging about the same time.

When children are about five or six, the social dimension becomes dominate and begins to interact with the other developing dimensions. The social dimension embraces the child’s potential to interact with other children and adults and to become socially effective and self-determined.

By about eleven or twelve, the child’s emerging sexual dimension begins dynamically interacting with the other developing dimensions. Sexual behavior and attitudes that are appropriate and inappropriate, healthy and unhealthy, effective and ineffective are best conveyed to maturing adolescents by parents who have carefully thought through and appropriately deal with the issues.

This central parental responsibility similarly applies to the thinking, learning dimension starting at birth and gaining focus at seventeen or eighteen. By then, children need to be self-directed, skilled learners who are formulating independent ideas and perceptions. They should be thinking critically, clearly, and thoroughly. Older adolescents need to be receptive to the ideas of others and at the same time able to combine those ideas with their own, i.e., they should be thinking for themselves.

The point here is children are complex individuals. Further, their healthy and successful growth and development are also very complex processes. Although most children pass through their developing years with only occasional problems and issues, many don’t. While most children are safe, have permanent homes, and live with adults who are committed to their well-being, other children are maltreated and their well-being is jeopardized. Their parents are failing them at a time in their lives when the children absolutely need them to succeed.

Yes, many of the causes of parental failure leading to children coming into care can and will be corrected. In the meantime, though, the children are continuing to grow and develop. For these children, everyone working with them must commit themselves to their well-being. Their futures depend on it. The children are counting on it.

As you can see, keeping maltreated children safe isn’t enough. Their physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, social, sexual, and intellectual well-being must also be nurtured and supported. If this doesn’t happen, these most vulnerable children will be forever the victims of the maltreatment they have experienced.

From your point of view:

When children are maltreated, abruptly taken from their families, and placed into care, what do you think the short and long-term effects will be in these developmental areas? After each area, write a sentence or two about what you think the negative effects may be.

•           Physical growth and development

•           Behavior and adjustment

•           Emotional well-being

•           Moral and spiritual growth

•           Self-image and self-esteem

•           Social and interpersonal adjustment

•           Sexual development and behavior

•           Intellectual growth and school success

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