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Life’s chances
August 13, 2014, 05:00 AM By Dorothy Dimitre

“Every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.” — James Agee.

On July 9, another great-grandchild was added to our clan. A boy was born to 26-year-old granddaughter and her husband. Whenever we enjoy a new addition to the family, it brings to mind, besides the amazing miracle of life, a disturbing unease about what the future may hold for today’s babies. When you think about how things have changed even just since their parents were born, it certainly gives us pause for concern.

It causes concern about the potential of all children and how, depending upon their luck in their future, they can be helped to grow into well-functioning people or become unfortunate victims of trauma that affects their lives in a way that will cause them to become problems for themselves and for society. It’s amazing how there isn’t more attention paid to the fact that a great many of the ills of societies throughout the world are caused by people who did not have the care and nurturing necessary and/or had experienced serious trauma that prevented them from developing into well-functioning people. 

You can’t help but grieve for the tens of thousands of children being sent to the United States from Central America via Mexico — 57,000 reported since last October. When I think of those children, after all they’ve already been through, being shuttled off to the United States from other countries, and the sad plight of many children who reside in this country, it brings to mind what Piero Ferucci wrote in “The Importance of Kindness.” “The sense of belonging — that is, the feeling that we are part of a whole greater than ourselves, with which we are physically, mentally and spiritually involved — is a necessary factor to our well-being. Furthermore, when we feel isolated, we will seek some affiliation at all costs, even with groups that are violent, dangerous, extremist. This is one of the reasons many adolescents are attracted by gangs, cults and sects.”

Children who are exposed to severe trauma — whether it’s parental violence (against the child or each other), losing a parent, being ignored by parents, suffering from other tragedies, or sent away to live with strangers, are more likely to cause problems for themselves and others. And, as Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D, wrote in “How Toddlers Thrive”: “If a young child is raised in a chronic environment of high stress (such as the emotional stress of living in poverty or the physical stress from abuse), that child’s brain will be forever altered. … Security, comfort, freedom, limits are essential ingredients for healthy development of the brain.”  

Children need to know intrinsically that at least one person in their life cares enough about them to give them the attention they need — to nurture them in a way that makes them feel wanted and cherished. They need to feel like they are important enough to their caretaker(s) that adequate time and attention is spent on their behalf. It makes you wonder how much anxiety the overstressed lives that so many parents lead create in a young child?

Are we asking too much to expect a baby or young child to adjust to being taken away from home every day to be parked in day care with people who are often unable to give the child the attention he/she needs? And what will be the ultimate effects of an even greater trauma that results from a child from being torn away from home to live in a strange environment like the children that have been crossing the border? “While we may think of stress as purely emotional, doctors know that it churns up complex physiological reactions that involve the nervous, endocrine and immune systems.” — “Other people’s stress: It’s contagious, but it doesn’t have to bring you down,” by Martha Ross, San Mateo County Times, July 27.

Just think if many more children growing up into today’s world were lucky enough to be spared serious trauma and to have parents who do their best to make their world a secure and promising place for them? Just think of how much less turmoil and suffering there would be in the world if more attention were paid to the physical and psychological needs of children by not only parents, but the education establishment and those in government. If we fail to protect our children — allowing so many to be damaged by caretakers who are concerned only about their own agendas and little about the future of our most precious national resource, we are abdicating our responsibility as parents and citizens.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”— Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is



Tags: children, their, parents, child, about, being,

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OP-ED: Amidst hookah smoke: Delicious pizza
Letter: Millbrae: Polluted by its own people
Life’s chances

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