Looking after children in the school holiday these days is difficult for those parents who work.
Sometimes I think the government has little perception of how hard it is, and now that mothers are expected to restart work not long after the umbilical cord has been cut it’s an added pressure on families particularly if they’re not living near the wider family who, traditionally, was always available for child-minding.
This week chief scout, adventurer and television presenter Bear Grylls launched a manifesto for children to help them learn new skills to promote that adventurous streak that all children have.
He’s concerned about the modern lifestyle of young ones who are wrapped up in computer games and tablets. He would like them to learn how to build a den or spend the night outdoors.
What should be a wonderful time for children to be outside, making friends and expanding their knowledge of the great outdoors is being lost to a generation whose parents work.
My generation remembers those halcyon days of childhood when we took off to the nearest wood or forest, put up a tent and lived on bread toasted on the end of a stick over an open fire and spread with jam.
We turned tree climbing into an art form and sometimes didn’t return home until the next day. Today’s children have so little garden space – house builders these days appear to assume that nobody wants a garden any more now that they’re working all the time – there isn’t the opportunity to climb a tree or build a den.
Bear Grylls says none of his challenges needs cost a penny, ‘‘so there’s no excuse to spend the next six weeks sitting on a couch’’. Every child, he says, has the right to adventure when they’re young.
I’m certain the current drive to raise extra taxes is depriving children of that right.
Sadly, our society is going backwards when it comes to care of the young. NHS figures out recently revealed that more than 33,000 girls under the age of consent have been given contraceptive implants and injections on the NHS over the past four years.
A generation of children under the age of 15, in other words, has never learned to be a child in the real sense or develop a sense of adventure. Some 1,800 of those children were aged 14 and under.
A further 5,900 girls aged 14 and under were also prescribed the pill in sexual health clinics. Successive governments have ignored the perils of the early sexualisation of children at an age when they could be enjoying themselves in other more exciting, productive ways giving them a better chance to enhance their view of what they can get from life in future.
If the government insists that parents work then it should stump up the money to make sure that summer holidays for children should be a time of adventure. Mothers or fathers should have extra paid leave from work to help their children have fun and learn the skills of how to enjoy themselves on a daily basis without it costing much.
Even on wet days children can learn to play indoors without switching on a computer or a television set.
Traditional parenting skills have been lost in a generation and we need to get them back. It’s so terribly sad to see groups of very young people, standing on street corners, smoking, drinking and making a nuisance of themselves.
It’s fair to assume that these are the ones who’ve never known what it’s like to spend a night in a tent under the stars, or row a canoe down a lake. If their idea of fun is inebriation and under age sex then they’ve been failed all round – not just by their parents but by society in general and the Government in general.