Parent bonds key to teen survival of ‘war zone’: speaker

It’s a war zone out there and to feel the confidence that comes with safety, young people need to feel attached to their parents, said Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a Vancouverbased expert coming to speak in the Valley Friday, Jan. 31.

Keeping Children Safe in a Wounding World is the title of the event, which will discuss how best to prepare children for an increasingly difficult daily life, one that we have chosen to deal with the wrong way, Neufeld said.

"We’ve taken a dreadful wrong turn in our society by creating conditions and by supporting peer attachments. Because now our children are becoming very, very stressed-out even though there is no war, no really stressful scenario in our society. In actual fact, they are all looking like they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

"They’re in the battlefield and that battlefield has become much more so with the digital media. It’s just increased the amount of wounding that goes on and so it’s even more important that we restore right relationships with our children."

Neufeld will be talking about how society has taken the road of trying to alter a child’s environment, sheltering them to try to make their lives wound and stress free. But that’s not the best road to success, he said.

"The main way of keeping safe is making sure ‘we matter most’, which is a function of attachment," Neufeld said. "So, the stronger a child’s attachment to us and the safer they feel, the more we keep from shaming them and wounding them ourselves, the less hurt they are by what goes on in the outside world: the bullying, the bumps and bruises, the failures

and so on. "So it is a function of attachment," he continued. "It’s actually very simple. The science of resilience has been able to uncover this key but that has huge implications for us because, for the most part, in our society children’s attachments to the adults responsible for them, their parents and teachers, is much weaker than they used to be.

"They are much more likely now to be attached to their peers and that’s where the problem is. The more the peers matter, the more their friends matter the more capable of being hurt, devastated, wounded by their friends," Neufeld said.

Neufeld’s view has opened a fresh window on the subject and has gained many supporters, including large numbers of parents and staff at Sunrise Waldorf School, which is bringing Neufeld for the Jan. 31 event at the Chemainus Theatre.

An alarmingly increasing number of teenage suicides has legislators and parents floundering for

solutions as they anxiously look over their shoulders at the looming presence of social media in every walk of life.

Neufeld’s message of the desirability of putting parents and teachers back into the driver’s seat with regards to the children in their care is popular with Sunrise Waldorf School staff.

At Sunrise Waldorf School, the author and speaker is an icon, according to Devon Brownsey, director of admissions.

"Our teachers do a lot of different studies from a lot of different parenting experts as part of their work with the children and Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a bit of a Canadian guru. They have been taking his video courses online with a Cowichan Valley facilitator," she said.

The Sunrise social health committee, made up of teachers and parents to study different works by different people has always had a goal to bring Neufeld to the region. They are hoping to attract people from all over the Island.

"It’s quite a coup getting him to come here. He is a lovely man, a really down to earth person. He has been to Mexico and he has a European speaking tour next year but he also has a connection to Vancouver Island."

Neufeld is very interested in educating educators and parents, and will offer a question and answer session as well as a book signing, Brownsey said "He wants as many people as possible to be in on it, so he tries to make himself as accessible as possible to local people."

Admission for the evening lecture, question and answer session and book signing is $25 per person. Tickets are available online atchemainustheatrefestival.ca or at the Chemainus Theatre box office at 1-800-565-7738.