Self Hope For The Helpless !

No Wonder We Aren't Rich

Ever considered the cost of raising children ? Makes your jaw drop if you think about it too long. It's really a very scary thought, and would certainly put you off considering conception should you think about it too hard prior to planning a child. Obviously you need to think about it at that point, but only in so far as can you afford to bring a child into your life at this point. Children are beautiful and rewarding so who would say "No"?

According to statistics, as parents, most of us will support our children on average until they are 21. This means daipers, buggies, toys, bikes, cots, beds, clothing, formula, foods, shoes, schooling, college, soccer etc etc. That is a lot of stuff to by. On average, these studies show that parents spend £200,000 ($311,000) raising EACH of their children from birth to the age of 21. This equates to £800 ($1250) PER CHILD for each month of their life. No wonder as parents we will never be rich!!!!

These statistics are UK statistics, and the report was stating that the UK is an unfriendly place for families. Thing is, I figured, that it can not be much better anywhere else. The standard of living in the UK is not particularly high - it's not the best, but it sure isn't the worst either. Having discussed this with my wife at length and worked on some figures, I would suggest that the majority of that money goes on your child between the ages of 0 and 8 to 10, when they are least independent and more reliant on us to provide. As they become teenagers, then they can get a small job and provide towards their needs. Whilst at college, they can get a job to assist with college fees or their upkeep.

Most of the money that we spend when our child is between the age of 0 and around 3 goes on daipers, wipes and formula - none of these things are inexpensive. Scrimp on any of these things and you will have thin useless daipers that do not hold their content, wipes your fingers go through and formula that does not give your child what it needs! Clothes and shoes get more expensive as your child passes 8, because they want designer clothing. Toys get more expensive around this time also because they get more complicated and intricate. Education is also expensive, the better the school or college the more it costs to educate your child.

So in view of these facts it could cost less or it could cost more - one thing is for sure though, whatever you earn it will get swallowed up by your child until they are 21. Given that we have 3 children, we are looking at £2400 per month in order to bring them up well - I know we have the children and therefore have no place to complain but surely something could be done to reduce the cost of having children, or how will the human race survive ?

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

Accusations Of Character

A woman we know recently had a visit from social services. It appears her children had told teachers of a threat she made, partly in joke and partly in the heat of the moment. Whilst they were misbehaving, she made a threat to do something quite bad if they continued. Teachers had taken this as a red flag, and immediately informed social services, instead of speaking to the mother first.

The woman had had a visit from social services, without any notification, after a wholly innocent comment to her children. That visit is now on her permanent record, and if anything similar happens in the future she could lose her children! We all make the mistake of threatening our children when we are mad at them, I've heard parents tell their children that they will get a spanking if they don't stop misbehavng - the last thing I would think is to phone the social services, I would just be thanking my lucky stars that it wasn't my children being naughty!

I was the victim of a similar episode about 12 months ago. We received a letter through the post from social services, explaining that they were coming to see us on a specific date. We were flabbergasted and had absolutely no idea what it was in connection with. We called and asked, but they would give no details over the phone. You can't help wondering though, what it's all about, question everything you've ever done in your time with your children, and wonder if your behaviour WAS inappropriate. It feels like a bomb has dropped on your family life, destroying everything you ever did in the name of family and enjoying time with your children. We just had to sit and wait for three weeks to see what it was all about. That time went slowly and was almost unbearable.

The day came and two social workers turned up at our door. They were very friendly and personable, and informed us that the visit was just routine and nothing to worry about. They began by talking to my wife and I - they had been informed that I had behaved in "an inappropriate way" with my step daughters. I was incredulous it was like I had been hit by a bus, I could not get my breath, my wife could not believe it either and leapt to my defense! On top of this, I had just been CRB checked by the local school, after helping with their end of year play.

Reeling from the shock, I was banished from any further interactions. My wife sat with the social workers as they interviewed each of my step children, in reference to how I behaved with them. I was not allowed to listen or know what had been said, but just had to sit and wonder what had happened, and how it had happened. What on earth had I done to deserve this? And where had the accusation come from ? We had no idea about either, and the social services visitors were not at liberty to say!

We were due to get married in a few weeks, and after the social workers had left and we were chatting about it all, we figured somebody must be trying to throw a spanner in the works. But who ? My wife told me what had gone on in my absence and we talked about what had been said to her afterwards. Before they left, the social workers had told my wife that it appeared that our eldest - who is very imaginative and very happy to share - had said something to somebody (they wouldn't say who) which had been taken totally out of context, and thus resulted in the report to social services.

About 2 weeks later we received a copy of the social services report which stated very clearly, that we were just a "normal family" with a normal family life and that nothing untoward had happened. They also stated what they told my wife, that our eldest had said something which had been taken totally out of context by the person who reported the issue. Everything was back to normal again and we could continue with our lives.

We married a week later, but during the reception, as during the weeks prior to our marriage, we were still wondering had one of these people contacted the social services? To this day, we still don't know who it was that made the complaint or why, but given what my wife told me this morning, I wonder - was it the school? I guess we will never know.

This whole situation has changed my life. I was terribly affected emotionally by it all, and in some ways I still am. I would break down in tears for no reason - I felt totally alone and isolated (it was a horrible feeling), I would have feelings of resentment towards the children for putting me in this situation (although I know they said what they did in all innocence), I was snappy and irritable, and I was VERY angry - I wanted to confront the person responsible for bringing this situation into our lives.

Today things could not be better, my family could not be happier and my relationship with the children could not be more loving. I no longer have the feelings of resentment I had, but I am very aware of everything I do with the children, especially the girls, and I shy away from certain things that I used to get involved with - such as bath times. It's terrible, when you cannot interact with children the way you should, but even though I know I did nothing wrong and would never do anything like that to a child, I am still nervous of how things I do could be misconstrued - you have to be so careful with things these days (I have a friend, who will not go to the toilet or shower in his own home, if his daughter has a friend home - how crazy is that?)

My advice to you, if you find yourself in a similar situation is - although it's worrying and you cant help but wonder why, what and who - try and keep a level head, you know that you have done nothing wrong. The social services are fair, impartial and professional - that's why they exist - and they will take everything said into consideration. You may as well not worry about who said what to who, because you will never find out. Just hold your head high and be confident in your knowledge that you have done nothing wrong. If you don't, you may just lose your mind!

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010

Vicky Robson emailed us with the following comments :

". . . this is normal protocol .. they wouldnt speak to the parents because if a child were at risk you could understand the consequences of someone telling the parent that the child had said something ... could be disastrous ..

a few pointers:

if a child talks to you .. just listen .. never ask any questions .. never probe for more information

talk to someone else in a more senior position or position of authority or call first response police/social services

i think something like 90 odd % of calls they get are not serious and once investigated are dropped

thems the rules these days may seem extreme but due to past instances these are there to be followed ."

Thankyou for taking the time to comment Vicky - it is truly appreciated

Safety In Numbers

Living in an age of modern technology, in a world where we can access the internet on our cell phones as we sit in a bar, or ride the bus our children are exposed to technology from an ever younger age. On top of that, we also live in a world where technology is disposable. New cell phones come free, if you choose the right package - if you want something that's state of the art then you pay a little bit extra. When the new design comes out, then you can swap or change your old one for the new one.

Children see this - just as they see everthing else that us adults do - and it looks exciting, they want in!!! So when your child comes to you and asks for a cell, what's your answer going to be ? What age is safe to be trusted with a cell ? And is it safe to give your child this freedom at such a young age? Those of you who have read my other articles, will already know my opinion on childhood innocence. It no longer exists, and I think that that is a shame. You will also know that my 7 year old step daughter is allowed, with boundaries, to play outside of the house with her friends. You may know as well, that at that tender age she also has a cell phone - is this a good thing? Well in my opinion it is not, unfortunately my wife and I had no say in the matter. Her father bought the phone for her birthday, without speaking to my wife and I - it is not the most up to date phone and is on a pay as you go contract.

Our daughter is very grown up for her young years, and so when she came home brandishing "daddy's birthday present" we were pleased for her. He had promised to top it up for her regularly, as long as she did not over use it. She used it well, and lived up to her side of the bargain and, to be fair, for the most part, so did her daddy. She took it out with her when she went out, which was good for us as parents, as we could contact her whenever we needed to. It became a novelty for her to receive a text from her nanny, or from me when I was at work and she loved it. For the last few months though, she has not bothered with it. She plays closer to home as her circle of friends has changed, and she no longer takes it everywhere with her. When approached for a reason for why she does not use it any longer, we get this answer : "Nobody texts me any more. What's the point?" Amazing. This is not, by the way, because we can't be bothered more because I have been at home since February this year. I also think that because her friends do not have one, she is no longer as bothered as she was.

Research has shown, that parents are becoming victims of pressure from their children with cell phones for children as young as 4 currently on sale! In the research the vast majority of parents (47%) thought their child should wait until between the ages of 11 and 13 before owning their first phone. 27% felt that their child should be 14 or older, with the rest thinking that being under 10 years of age was okay. It is important however, to resist the urge of a child's nagging power and make a considered decision.

Regardless of age though, there are certain ground rules that need to be set so that you can both get the best out of it. In addition, there are certain things that as parents we need to consider : cost (both set up and credit) ; what would it be used for ; when would it be used (definite no-no at meal times, homework time, bed time) ; for divorced parents, it gives an extra line of communication for both you and your child ; it can be a safety line for your child if they are out and feel in danger ; is your child asking due to the effects of peer pressure ; do they want an up to date phone, in order to access the internet unsupervised.

If you decide to say no, for whatever reason, then stick to your decision. Sit your child down and explain to them in the simplest possible way your reasons - they deserve a considered answer. Simply saying "No" or "Because I said so" will just lead to further nagging from your child and further stress for you, and may even end up in your child resenting you. I have always found that giving a good sound and concrete explanation in a way that your child can understand, keeps the nagging at bay, as there is no reason for them to come back and ask why. Lets face it too, your child is clever and can understand the reason - whether it's lack of money or that your child is too young.

If you decide on a positive answer for your child, then you should set some ground rules. One great idea is to sit down and draw up a "contract" with your child before the phone is even purchased. By doing this your child will understand exactly what is expected of them and what to expect as consequences should they break the contract. Some rules to include might be : banning the cell in the bedroom at night (research shows that this is bad for sleep patterns in both children AND adults) ; insisting the mobile is turned off at other times (meal times and home work time) ; the phone remains off when at school (most schools actually ban cell phones and so your child must be aware of the consequences should they break this rule) ; set a top price limit for both the equipment and the credit so that your child knows their limits ; if the cell is on "pay as you go" then you must ensure your child knows how to check their credit and to that they need to leave some credit for "emergencies" ; you should also let your child know that if they lose, swap or lend their phone to smoebody else it will not be replaced.

So there you have it. What to do and how to do it. You are now prepared for that question - or that year of pestering . . . ."Oh go on, please mom, pleeeeease, let me have a cell phone!" You will now be able to answer with confidence!

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

My Pretend Friend

Pretend friends are a common thing amongst young children (around 65% of all children between 3 and 5 have one). As parents though, it can be both endearing and worrying, wondering why our child feels the need for a pretend friend in their life.

My wife and I have 3 children (my step children) and all three of them have had pretend friends. In fact all three of them STILL have pretend friends (our eldest is one of a third of the 65% who continue with pretend friends at 7 years old - we put it down to her younger siblings having them too). I am currently sitting with my youngest watching an episode of UK favourite children's TV show "Max & RUby", which is dedicated to the main character's pretend friend. In the end, the "friend" was being blamed for all of his naughtiness. Is this the reason or is this just a way of dealing with the emotion of guilt ? The latter has been proven in studies on the subject.

We feel that the pretend friend's that our children engage with, are down to the healthy imaginations of our children. It is shown in studies, that most children with autism have a pretend friend, but it is not unique to the condition. Most children are psychologically healthy and pretend friends are seen as an innocent, healthy thing in children, allowing them to express their creative side and develop psychologically. Having a "friend" who treats them with the utmost respect and unconditional love, can also allow your child to develop a high level of self esteem, which is a really good thing.

In some children however, a pretend friend can be a coping device - for inordinate stress or loneliness at home. The "friend" becomes the confidante, or the companion to a child in need of help. The time to worry is when a pretend friend becomes a barrier to a child forging real friendships with peers, such as a nursery school child preferring to play with their pretend friend rather than their class mates.

Pretend friends in young children, sometimes even in teens (an imaginary boyfriend for example) are nothing to worry about, so long as the child (a) understands that the "friend" is not real (b) is not encountering any underlying issues such as abuse. When teens get older and become young adults, but still have pretend friends, alarm bells sound - as this could be a possible underlying symptom of schizophrenia. In this instance the child should be seen by an expert in the field (ie a psychiatrist), and evaluated.

Should you discourage your child's new "friendship"? Not at all, do not belittle your child or become too involved in their relationship. Sit back and watch it develop, enjoy watching them - your child is beginning to deal with many complex issues that the world is presenting to him/her, and coping with them in an imaginative way - watching them can be a joy. Remember though, that as the parent, you are in control. Feel free to gently remind your child, that the "friend" is not real, if they appear to be taking things a little too far. Only intervene, if your child exhibits any of the behaviours already listed.

With a pretend friend, children are attempting to define the difference between fantasy and reality. As they mature, in most cases, the imaginary friend becomes less real, though the friend may remain a treasured memory of innocent days. Mine was called "Peter"!

(c) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

God I Sound Like My Dad

Ever said that to your wife, or even your children, when you've been talking to them ? They may ask for something and you respond with a quick automatic response. Then you think on what you've just said, and you think "God I sound like my dad!"

My parents, now in their 70's have been married for close to 60 years. Amazing - I always joke with my dad that he'd be out by now if he'd murdered her! My mom and dad had a hard family life with four children to provide for back in the 1970's and 80's when money was tight as it is now. My dad worked 60 plus hours a week and my mom worked a full time job too, just to pull in enough money to meet the bills. There was very little free cash to take us out, or on holiday. We were happy with day trips and Christmas and birthday presents - there were very few treats.

My parents are still very much in love, you can't always tell, but when my dad recently began to suffer dementia as a result of an adverse reaction to anaesthetic during an operation to replace his knee, my mom could not do enough. Seeing them together a few weeks after he had come out of his prolonged hospital stay, reduced me to tears. I explained to my wife, "I never knew for sure that she loved him, until today." She was so understanding, gentle and sensitive to him and I had never seen this side of their relationship. Because times were hard during my childhood (and as a child I was no less demanding than the children of today), my parents were frequently annoyed with each other and not talking. As a child you do not understand what your parents had to put up with - as an adult I now fully understand and appreciate what my parents sacrificed in order to give me what they did.

Children ask for everything - can I have this, I want that, can I do the other, can we buy that toy etc. Its endless, the media doesn't help with endless adverts for toys, magazines and the like. The time comes when you answer with "We'll see", "Maybe" etc standard parent responses, given in the hope that your child will forget that they ever asked for it and that will be the end of it.

Next come the scoldings - your child does something wrong or annoying and you tell them to stop, but you tell them in that way that swings your thoughts back to sitting in the car with your parents. You would see your dad looking at you through the rear view mirror pulling his annoyed face and saying "Stop that, or you can get out and walk!" You knew he didn't mean it but you stopped, and when your children stop you look at your wife and you say "God I sound like my dad!"

In a way its not such a bad thing to sound like your parents, they did a lot for you. They nurtured you and made you the person you are, and as you grow up you begin to understand and appreciate everything they did for you. Hunting to find the money to buy a new bike, or Christmas presents or birthday presents. What it takes to bring up a family with good manners, morality and appreciation for what they have - not spoiling them as it is so easy to do. It's only as we get older that we understand exactly how difficult it was for our parents to do what they did, and as we understand we begin to understand their thinking.

Appreciate your parents, you may parent in a different way, but that is just evolution of the technique. Next time you catch yourself sounding like them, smile and realise that it's a good thing, it's reassuring to know that you are doing the same thing (if not better) for your children. Take a second to understand where your response came from, and how it was formulated. Your parents taught you so much about parenting without realising it, and they deserve your thanks for that.

Next time that you say "God I sound like my dad," add to it, "and I'm glad that I do!"

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010

Every Two Weeks

As you may have gathered, if you have read a few of my articles, I am the proud step father of three beautiful children. As I write this I am watching Jeremy Kyle, the Englishman's Maury Povich! He is doing DNA tests, and paternity tests, and lie detectors etc for people who have had casual relationships and made children carelessly. Happens a lot in this day and age! I am pleased to say that my step children, however, are the result of a relationship between two parents who were in a long standing relationship.

Jeremy keeps saying that so and so has "bought the children up as they were his own". That's what you do when you go into a relationship where your partner has children, there is no other way to do it. My step-children all know who their parents are and are in regular contact with their real dad. It's good for them, they are well balanced and understand the situation - but it can be difficult for us, especially my wife.

Every two weeks, our children go off to their dad's and come back to us after two days. They can sometimes come back in a strange mood, or with an attitude that was different to how they left us, but we understand the reasons for that and work around it. The circumstances under which their parents split cannot be discussed here, and the children still have no idea why it happened.

I am lucky that I entered this relationship when I did, the children have accepted me as a father figure, because they were so young when I came into the house. The hardest child to bond with, I found, was the eldest of the three, but we have got there. The younger two have only really known me in the position of dad, and therefore it has been easier to bond with them. The middle child describes me to her friends and teachers as her "Dad", which is fantastic and makes me smile and swell with pride every time.

When the children do go to their dad's for the weekend, my wife finds it difficult to deal with. She can be very thoughtful, upset, tearful, and have feelings of not wanting to let her children go. This has obviously improved over the years I have known her, but I can see that my wife still hurts everytime they wave goodbye. I can understand why. My wife loves her children as any mother does, and does not like to be parted from them - it hurts her to let them go, reminds her of the hurt she experienced, and of the problems that caused the split. Even though the split was not my wife's fault, she feels like she has let her children down, failed them in some way and she will probably never get over those feelings. There will always be some kind of negative feelings there, whenever the children leave to go to their father's.

I do my best to sympathise, empathise, and make her feel better about things, but I have no idea what she really feels like. I have no children of my own, so cannot put myself in her shoes that well. She is a sensitive person and therefore no matter what I do or say, those feelings will always be with her. It's a shame, because it is not fair that she should feel that way every other week. When we do have the children, we do our best to make sure they enjoy their time with us, doing various family activities - when we have got them, we enjoy them as children and for the wonderfully bright characters that they are.

Who knows what the future may bring. The children will get to an age, where they can understand the cause of their parent's relationship break up, and make up their own mind about things. Will they still want to go and see him ? Will they ever forgive him ? Will they decide that they want to stay just with my wife and I ? Call me dad ?Who knows ? It will be their decision, their choice. It will be tough for them though, and that will be a shame for them, I'm sure there will be a lot of heartache when that moment comes.

Until it does, we will continue the way we are and continue to raise three well adjusted, sensitive, beautiful children as our own and hope that they will one day have the capability to understand and make decisions of their own. Until then, they will have to endure the unfortunate ritual of "every two weeks".

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010

Child's Play

How safe are your children at home ? Something I ask myself every day!

We have a dog, and we all know that dog faeces contains toxicara canis which can apparently make children blind. My wife and I are paranoid about it - the children are not allowed on the grass until we've cleaned it up, which we do daily - I think so long as you ensure that where your children play is waste free, then it is safe for them. The thing is, a dog makes a home a family home - I didn't believe this, until we actually got one. They are an amazing addition to any home and wonderful companions for adult and child alike, and our children love our dog.

We also have two cats, but cats are cleaner than dogs, in so far as they bury their excrement and use litter trays. The cats therefore dont worry us. We have reptiles too - reptile waste is renowned for salmonella and our children love to handle the snakes and lizard, but we ensure that they ALWAYS wash their hands after handling them - as we do the rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamster. No we don't live in a zoo, it just seems that way !

So thats the pets covered! What about the rest of the house ? Well we moved into a house, where the landlord was very safety conscious. All of our radiators have guards on so that our children can not burn themselves. Personally, I think this is a great idea. They are made of nicely shaped wood and fancy trellis work, and stop the children leaning against overly hot radiatiors and pipes or accidentally running into them and burning themselves.

We no longer need stair guards, because all of our children are old enough to understand the dangers of stairs, and most of the time, the youngest two come down on their bottoms! Hey I'm an adult, and if I get the chance I do the same, its the funnest way to get down!! So the stairs are okay. The boiler has a setting on it that allows you to control the temperature of the hot water that comes out of the tap. It is a combination boiler, by a company called Ferroli, and we can ensure that the water is hot enough to wash, shower, clean dishes etc, but not so hot that it burns the children if they run the hot tap unsupervised - therefore making that part of the household safe.

Back outside - the garden is fully safe, being fenced in with 6 foot panels and concrete posts. All grass and block paving, it ensures that they cannot get into any harm, if playing in the garden unsupervised. They can fall over on the block paving and hurt their knees, but they are contained and safe from any external influence. There is a door from our garden into the garage, but they are very aware that the garage is out of bounds, and stay out. If they want their bike or any toys, then they come and ask first. This means that they cannot injure themselves on anything stored in there, or mess with things that they should not, such as tools. A garage is an exciting place full of things that they see adults using, but they are told not to touch! Could you resist ?

I think overall, if your children are old enough to understand the concept of danger, then you can control their behaviour and keep them safe. If, on the other hand your baby has just started to crawl or toddle, then you need to be very aware of the dangers in your home - children are literally into everything, and you have to be on your guard all of the time. If you safe guard your home, then you can relax and enjoy your children, instead of constantly worrying.

Safe guarding your home is easy. Take a walk round (house, garden, garage,shed) with a pen and paper, and look at everything : ornaments that can be reached, unstable furniture that could be pulled over easily, books that could be pulled off a bookcase and onto your child. Perhaps even crawl on all fours so that you can see everything at the level of a small child, you may spot things of interest to them that you wouldn't have otherwise noticed. Look also for animals that can be reached by children (rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice,etc all bite), is your dog or cat of a pleasant nature (children grab and pull at these animals - especially the tails), electrical sockets (socket guards can be bought), coffee tables (where hot drinks or glasses may be left), access to kitchens (think hot oven, position of kettles, knives etc), look for trip hazards (especially with toddlers) - so so much. Write down all of the hazards and then sit down and work out how you can remove them easily and inexpensively - it can be done.

It's a simple task which can be done in 2 hours, but that 2 hours could save you so much grief and self torture, should an accident happen. It's something that costs nothing to do, but the benefits are endless.

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010

Be A Child

Children are children, or at least they should be. When I was young, children (by which I mean under the age of 13) were children - wholly innocent, no worries or cares (except for being back in time for tea and doing what my parents told me), no idea about what I wanted to do or what the world was like, happily playing cops and robbers or making rose perfume with my friends, and my dad's roses. It seems though, in my experiences over the last 10 years that the age of innocence has gone.

Children are inclined nowadays, to be worldly wise and old before their time. They want mobile phones and social media accounts at the age of 7, they (our daughters - 7 and 4) want to wear make up and high heels ! Children just seem to me to want to grow up. They don't want to or don't enjoy being children and are too impatient to wait to be teenagers. Somehow at the age of 7 or 8 (this happened with my ex's son too) they stop wanting to be children and want to magically become 16! I am forever trying to say to our 3 children : "Enjoy it while you can, they are the best days of your life" - at risk of sounding like my mother, but God was she right!!! Even explaining that instead of school they will go to work, which isn't half as much fun, the incoming bills, the hardships etc, but still they want to grow up.

What are we doing that is making our children dislike or be bored of being a child ? Well, SATs start in schools at around the age of 7 or 8 - exams for children of that age are ridiculous. We all know that exams are not fun, and that they put a lot of pressure on people. Schools have performance tables to excel in and therefore teachers push our children hard.

We are not strict parents, so it cant be that. Maybe the more relaxed modern parenting techniques, mean that children see more and therefore understand more about grown up life and find it an exciting idea, so much so that they want to be a grown up. I have noticed though, that it is more the girls than the boys that are like this - we are told that males are always behind females in terms of maturity and therefore that could be the reason for the difference. (Our 4 year old is the way she is, because she idolises her sister and wants to be just like her).

So, what else contributes to our children's development, especially in so far as girls are concerned? Is society making our children want to grow up TOO QUICKLY ? It could be - I have noticed the adverts on children's TV are showing children of 7 or 8 doing things that we would have not done until the age of 12 or 13. There are scooters aimed at this age range (7-8 year olds) with make up trays in them. Media also has a part to play. Things aimed at boys are generally less mature than those aimed at same age girls - take for example movies; High School Musical, Camp Rock, Hannah Montana, all seemingly aimed at teenagers. Due to this problem, however, these movies are missing their target as they are seemingly too young for the modern teenage girl. They are therefore appealing to the younger children (especially girls) in the 7 to 8 age range, and these films cover relationships and issues based around high school life. The films are exciting and fun, and therefore make being older more appealing, on top of this our children attempt to mimic what they see on screen, such as the dancing and singing, the attitudes and even the accents!

With our 7 year old, she has already begun coming home from school and telling us who her boyfriends are, and who she has been kissing at school - it's good that she is open about it and feels comfortable discussing it, but for my wife and I it's scary. My wife has had talks about things with her about 4 years prior to when you would expect to be having these discussions. She has asked a few times for a bra (!) and she is 7 and of a very slender build. The other thing I have noticed - and I know all girls want to be like their mother - is that she has a matriarchal streak that has developed, and can frequently be heard trying to be the grown up with our other two children - talking in very grown up tones, and saying the kind of things that she's heard my wife and I say.

It is scary to think that the age of innocence for our children is disappearing, and such a shame. I remember the days of childhood, playing innocent games without a care in the world. Our children are growing up so fast these days, we need to exercise conscious parenting to try and slow it down. If boys stay at their current development rate, and the development rate of girls continues to increase, we will be having age gap relationships in children - instead of there being a 2 year gap between most couples (as was always the case back in the 60's, 70's and 80's) there will be a 4-5 year gap (maybe more) between most couples come the 2020's when our children mature and begin to settle down. Thats a doubling / tripling in the development of girl's maturity in just 50 years - if that continues, come 2070 we will be seeing our 16 year old's first boyfriend being 26-30 years of age as the norm.

These are not statistics, just my musings, but none the less a real scary thought. So please parent consciously and try to avoid our children growing up too fast - keep toys and media exposure as close to innocence as possible and that way we can maybe slow the rapid development of our child's maturity and stop my predictions becoming a reality, thus saving the innocence of childhood.

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010