Parenting in today's world

It's not easy being a parent in today's world. It's hard, time-consuming work, full of worry and self-doubt. Few parents escape the problems brought on by the upheavals in society of the past few decades.

Some recent studies that found their way into the headlines show why parents are so worried:- Many parents are seriously underestimating the presence of drugs in their children's lives. A large study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that 28 percent of children in the tender ages of 9 to 12 were offered drugs last year. Just four years earlier, the figure was 19 percent.

Teen pregnancy has reached epidemic proportions, with two out of every five teenage girls becoming pregnant, said the Allen Guttmaker Institute. Figures show that more than half of those births are outside of marriage. That brings with it enormous social and medical costs.

The use of tobacco among teenagers continues to grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that 43 percent of the country's high school students smoked or chewed tobacco.

Teenage drivers are responsible for more than their share of accidents, and those students just starting to drive are at the most risk.

Even when they relax by watching television, children are being exposed to society's violence. The National Television Violence Study found that the level of violence shown in prime time has been rising over the past three years. The American Medical Association calls violence now a major national health problem, with television violence an important contributing factor.

A five-year study of the nation's workforce by the Families and Work Institute found that 70 percent of the working mothers and fathers said they don't have enough time to spend with their children. (A happier statistic is that children are getting slightly more attention from their fathers now than they did 20 years ago as fathers become more involved in the household.)

With all this in mind, It's no wonder that President Gordon B. Hinckley last week said he was deeply concerned about what is happening in America. He told a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that teen pregnancy, gang violence and drug abuse are a blight on the country's fabric. (See article on page 4.)

It's almost as hard to be a parent in these circumstances as to be a child. These are dangerous times, and each generation holds the heart of the other in its hands. The good news is that parents should not feel that they have to face these problems alone. Countless numbers of good, committed and caring people are willing to help - other family members, teachers and neighbors both within the Church and without.

The Church itself has strong programs to assist, from early nursery and Primary through adulthood. It has committed itself wholeheartedly to upholding and strengthening the family as the fundamental unit of society.

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children," the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have told the world. " `Children are an heritage of the Lord' (Psalm 127:3.) Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives - mothers and fathers - will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)

The key, said President Ezra Taft Benson years ago, is love. "Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence. They need empathy and understanding, not indifference, from mothers and fathers. They need the parents' time." (Parents' Fireside, Feb. 22, 1987.)

They also need family prayer. A father on his knees praying with his family will do wonders for them, said President Hinckley.

President Spencer W. Kimball offered wise counsel. "Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for, they must know that marriage is not a legal cover-all; but it means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but it also means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all." ( Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 306.)

That's a reward that every parent hopes - and prays - for.

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