According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, nearly 61 million children in rural China are left behind by their parents for several months at a time, year-round, year-after-year, while working in busy cities such as Beijing. Children are left with relatives, some of whom are elderly and unable to care for them appropriately. Others are left entirely on their own. Tests show that 70% of these children show signs of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and dropout of school at early ages.

Undoubtedly, the parents of these children see no other alternative, no other way to support them. As parents we must make difficult choices in the best interest of the family. But the fact that the majority of the Chinese children in this situation are struggling indicates that the best financial choice is not only breaking down the family but the children as well.

Supporting a family anywhere in the world is challenging today. Most parents spend at least some sleepless nights worrying about paying bills and providing a warm home, food, and education as well as all the seemingly necessary extras. We have to work to pay the bills.

However we should never lose sight of the priceless gift of love, attention, discipline, and guidance that also is needed. A significant amount of quality time, undistracted by email, texting, television or our own activities is vital to a child’s growth.

And as a community, if we can help the families around us with lucrative employment or household or childcare assistance, it is in the best interest of all of our futures to do so.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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