Our Missionary Children: The Real Loss of Childhood

Disturbed boy using computer

By Tony Bianchi, WIM Member Care

I have always admired missionary children for their maturity and ability to talk to adults. However, some of our missionary children face adult issues and grow up mentally and emotionally too fast. Normal, healthy childhood development may be lost or missed when our children are subjected to adult topics and uncensored emotions.

In light of this, “The Real Loss of Childhood,” an article by Dr. James Emery White, grabbed my attention recently. I wanted to share with you, our missionary parents, some important points he brings to light:

  • Children exposed to iPads, 3D films, and game consoles are losing interest in traditional storytelling. Endless distractions limit their desire and ability to read in silence or listen to stories. A love of reading increases concentration and promotes reflective, analytical thinking.
  • In this day of smartphone apps, social media and short attention spans, children find it difficult to play long games. The latest version of Monopoly has been modified to be won in 30 minutes.
  • Sociologist Neil Postman states that children are being robbed of their innocence, their naïveté, their ability to just be a child. We ask children to embrace mature issues, themes and experiences long before they are ready.
  • Postman contends that childhood is a time when a young person should be sheltered from certain ideas, experiences, practices, expectation and knowledge—from adult secrets and life mysteries, contradictions, tragedies, violence, etc.—not suitable to be revealed to children before they are able to integrate it psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Among the highest paid models in America today are 12- and 13-year-old girls presented as knowing and sexually enticing adults.
  • The themes of young adult fiction is as mature as adult fiction. The language and topics of adults and children has become the same, along with behavior, attitudes, desires and physical appearance. Children on TV act like the adults, making the same wisecracks and sexual innuendos.
  • The disappearance of children occurs when the line between the adult world and the child’s world becomes blurred or nonexistent!

Following is an excerpt from a coworker’s excellent comments on the tendency for parents to involve their children inappropriately in discussions beyond their level of maturity:

… Children will take their clues on how to respond to information and conversations about crisis based on how the parents are reacting. If parents are not overly upset or concerned, but are exemplifying biblical patterns of handling problem areas, then their children can benefit from observing their parents’ manner of response. However, the reverse is also true, and in response to their parents’ faulty handling of crisis situation, children will probably become even more upset and distraught because of their lack of emotional and spiritual maturity.

Let us encourage one another to take the time to evaluate our actions and responses to adult events and situations. Think through what is appropriate to discuss with our children regarding adult issues. Consider how to do this with sensitivity and discretion.

It is extremely important that our missionary children develop as healthy children (psychologically, mentally and emotionally) on the mission field with their childhood intact!

2 Comments on “Our Missionary Children: The Real Loss of Childhood

  1. Pingback: Steps to Prevent Missionary Burnout | World Indigenous Missions

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