Minimal care

Joanne Te Paiho, July 2011

Tena Koutou, Minimal care, this is an expression I heard recently on TV, in reference to whanau and their tamariki. So what is minimal care - and when is minimal care deemed to be neglect?

Children need more than parents or adults in the home just to be there, they need them to be actually functioning in some type of parenting capacity. When are we all going to stand up and take responsibility for what is happening around our communities. Have we all just become too accustomed to looking the other way and thinking oh 'not my problem' and 'they'll be right'. I want to put out there today that it is our problem, our issue; we are all responsible for what happens within our own communities, within our neighbourhood and within our own whanau.

What do our kids need? Hands on adults who put their children before anything or anyone else? YES, that's right. That is what they need, they need to matter, and they need to be top of your priority list. If you are putting them in grubby old clothes, while you are wearing the best, then no, you are not putting your kids first. If you are spending more energy on the partner in your life, or other pastimes, again your children are not up there on your priority list. And if you are spending your money in other areas when your kids are short of kai, clothes etc then you have to ask yourself some really big questions. Your children are a gift, a taonga, they need to be nurtured, loved, treated with respect and most of all treasured.

I worked with a young whanau during the week, in which I visited them in their own home: mum, dad and three beautiful boys. Mum began sharing with me that she had never experienced a positive relationship with her mum, and as a consequence she felt unsure how to do the whole mum thing and whether what she was doing was right. She said 'I don?t know how to be a mum'. As I looked around their whare, where there were lots of toys, walls covered with the boy's paintings, the look of three happy contented faces, chatting away and being playful around me, something became clearly obvious to me. She did know how to be a mum, she was doing IT, without even realising it, she was being a mum, and the main tell-tale sign for me was that these boys were her world; they came first, for both these parents. These boys will go on to know they mattered; the adults in their lives cared enough to put them first. (This family gave me permission to share this piece).

Of course life gets busy and stuff happens, but the little people in our world need more then minimal care, and whatever happens they need to grow up with knowing that they were loved and treasured. The question at the beginning of this column was 'when is minimal care deemed to be neglect?'. My thoughts are, yes, minimal care is neglect, and children deserve maximum care and attention, and nothing less. If there are circumstances that get in the way of you giving your children maximum care, it's probably time to seek some support for yourself and your whanau. You can contact us here at Parentline on 355 1655 or drop in and see us in King Street, in The Community House, on the 2nd floor.

Nga Mihi Koutou

Jo Te Paiho