Don’t deprive our children of the light of hope

In just six days time, we will find out the extent of the effect of what is likely to be the most harrowing budget in living memory. Although kiteflying about the repercussions has been limited this year, stifled no doubt by the ongoing and unexpected abortion debate, there is no doubt that there is a fair degree of negative apprehension about the contents of Michael Noonan’s briefcase next Wednesday afternoon.

It will form the basis of many a discussion at kitchen tables over the next week and it is a reality that it will be the prelude to renewed hardship in most households as this country continues the austerity drive forced upon it because of the excesses of some in the past.

However, as adults, we have to be able to absorb the enormity of the financial changes that will become a new reality in the New Year. But as adults, we also have a strong responsibility not to let our financial woes become the worries of the younger generation who have played no part in the creation of these problems, and who should not become the blameless victims of the Tiger excesses.

This Christmas we should ensure that there is a Christmas and that all children see it as such. It is a great wrong that a country can rob its children of hope, and it is in the prevention of this larceny that we all have a part to play. We should be mindful of the tones of our conversations when teenage and younger ears are around. Children are perceptive and pick up on the positivity and negativity. It would be a double wrong if we were to load them with our woes when they should be enjoying a childhood.

This is not to say that they should not be mindful of the new financial hardships in which we all find ourselves. In the past few years, parenting in Ireland has been held in a rarefied atmosphere. One commentator observed lately that Irish children are being reared in the style more becoming of airport Circle Lounge status, thus making them ill- prepared for life that in reality is more Ryanair than Circle Lounge.

However, in helping them adjust to the new realities that exist around every Irish kitchen table, we have to be careful not to rob them of hope, not to fill them with the despair which many of us feel.

We have to ensure that children have some landmarks in their childhood, and in the vast caverns of all our memories, it is the light of Christmas that shines out through the darkness of the many years behind us.

Life in post-boom Ireland is more challenging. For almost all families and households it is a matter of eking out. Breaking even or even surviving is the new prosperity. Meeting the challenges of making ends meet is the new way by which we determine success, not by the number of cars or the number of skiing holidays we have.

Irish teenagers and children are fast becoming the new victims of the downturn. The number of teenage suicides is frightening, as is the number of children going to school on empty stomachs because people are too proud to ask for help in a country where pride is seen as the last thing you hold on to.

Life is tough for everyone, but let us at least give hope to those who ought not have to worry.

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