Yesterday I was listening to a discussion on the radio about children's mental health and how many young people are struggling at this time. The following stakeholders were mentioned for the role they play: Schools, teachers, counsellors, learning support staff, CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services), GPs, child psychologists, government, social workers and youth centres. Thank God for all these key workers. But does anyone else notice someone missing from this list? Seems like one key stakeholder was not deemed important enough to mention: parents.
While mental health causes are complex and outside the remit of this blog, the absence of any mention of parents by the leading professionals shocked me. How could you have a discussion about helping children and fail to mention the important role of parents (even if in some of the cases those parents may have contributed to the problem)? How could it not even enter the experts minds to mention the parents?
We must fight for family and champion the importance of parents. Parental rights are being gradually eroded and, if we are not careful, we will see them erased all together.
When God created Adam and Eve he declared that people would leave their parents and would become one flesh. In other words, a new family unit would begin.
When the nation of Israel had been miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt but stubbornly refused to obey God, the Lord said that their generation would not get to enter the promised land.
What strategy did God give Moses to turn around a renegade society that was wrought with rebellion in one generation? Did he insist that they should all attend a weekly meeting where Moses would preach to them? Did he command their children should be sent to Sunday school where the priests would teach them and prepare them for their destiny? Did he tell the perishing parents to handover their children or else?
Instead, the Lord gave some words that were to become some of the most famous words of the Jewish faith, that would be prayed by generations of Jews at almost every opportunity. The opening of the Shema is found in Deuteronomy 6:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The strategy was to use the very people who had refused to obey the Lord to teach obedience to the Lord. At first glance this may seem crazy. Children’s leaders who have longed to see parents do more will perhaps wonder how frustrated Moses felt when God ordained this plan. Surely there was a better way.
And yet, 40 years later, the plan proved a success as a generation were willing to risk their lives and the security of the life they had grown up with in the desert to enter into the promised land. It was a victory for Israel, but it was also a victory for family.
With this in mind, it is with great concern that I read that parent’s will be consulted but may be overruled by their own children when it comes to consenting to being given the Covid vaccine. This is not intended as a statement about the vaccine, but as a statement on a parent’s right to raise their children as they see fit. All this is part of a long line of erosion of parental responsibility by the state.
This is an echo of incidents where government guidance (in Scotland) or trans toolkits (in Wales) tell schools that children as young as 4 can change their gender and their new identity should be accepted without question and without informing their parents. This is taking the idea of in loco parentis to a whole new level. The schools I know do not want to cut parents out or replace them, they want to work with them. Yet the drive to erode parental rights continues.
Here in the UK, we are not at the place where children are removed from their parents for sharing their faith (this is the case in China where it is illegal to talk to anyone under the age of 18 about Christ or to take them to a church, even if they are your own children). Nor are children removed from our care if parents choose to educate their children at home (as has happened in recent years in Germany thought the courts stated the children were happy, well adjusted and ahead in their education).
It is clear that fighting for families and for parents is an important battle for us to face in these days. If God chose families to be the primary place to raise a generation instead of letting the state do the work, then we should too.
The battle for marriage has been raging for a while in our nation. As church communities let’s champion the role of parents. (We talk about ways we can empower parents in our church communities here.) As parents let’s ensure we are the primary voice speaking into our children’s lives, giving them time, attention, and instruction as they grow. Aiming to keep a heart connection with our children so that they can share with us anything. Let’s be actively involved in their schools so that we can know what our children are being taught and who their teachers are.
And if you spot an area of government overreach, don’t be silent. Write to your MP and have your say. There are plenty of activists working in government with their agenda, let’s hold to God’s kingdom agenda and champion families as God intended.