Children of divorce need access to all caring parentsThere...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 22, 1999

Children of divorce need access to all caring parents

There are about 400,000 children of divorce in Maryland, and their chances of obtaining good parenting are diminished by the adversarial, contentious nature of many divorce proceedings.

Their situation could be improved if the Maryland legislature would pass bills making it easier for them to see their parents, and if judges would honor this basic need of children.

Unfortunately, such proposals are usually defeated.

In the recent Maryland General Assembly session, for instance, a bill was introduced by Sen. Norman Stone Jr. of Baltimore County to allow a parent whose access to his or her child had been blocked by the other parent to recover attorney's fees.

The bill passed the full Senate, and a House committee, only to be rejected on the floor of the House.

Senator Stone introduced the bill because a constituent complained about what he had to go through to see his child.

Anyone familiar with Maryland's courts knows that sometimes parents (women and men) must go to court repeatedly to get visitation rights enforced.

These are parents who want to be responsible and conscientious. They pay their child support, they pay their attorney and they lose time from work to try to obtain access to their children.

Still, when one parent has no interest in encouraging a child's contact with the other, it is often difficult to see your child or even talk to your child on the phone.

David L. Levy

Washington

The writer is president of the Children's Rights Council.

`Bottom line' mentality at root of kids' problems

Although Susan Villani's call for greater awareness of children's mental dysfunction ("Becoming schooled in mental illness," May 16) is certainly warranted, we should not forget the toxic social environment.

Children don't simply become pathological or anti-social in a vacuum.

I suggest that we examine carefully the pathology of our society, which breeds a host of individual pathologies -- from substance abuse to more overt self-destructive behaviors.

I believe this pathology is rooted in our "bottom line" mentality that skews nearly every human exchange.

This mentality treats people as commodities and places economic concerns before public welfare. The society as a whole values profits over people.

Children are not blind automatons. They see and respond to the messages all around them.

If these examples are largely venal and mercenary, why should children be expected to behave differently?

If the "strongest" are idolized in our high schools, while the non-athletes are dehumanized and devalued, what can we expect from our children?

To understand the root causes of pathology in individuals, we must understand the abiding pathology in our over-consumptive, people-devaluing society.

If, instead, we merely treat symptoms, no amount of mental health awareness or treatments will make a dime's worth of difference in the long run.

Philip A. Stahl

Columbia

Discipline, attention keep kids on right path

I disagree with the views Drs. Martha and William Pieper expressed in The Sun's May 16 article "A smart way to raise children."

While we do need to reason with our children and set a good example, some discipline is also necessary. When a child misbehaves, they need to receive negative consequences. This teaches that, in life, acting irresponsibly will have effects.

To suggest that a parent never show anger is unrealistic. Acting that way would fail to prepare children for the anger they will provoke from others.

The doctors suggested that the boys who shot up Columbine High School probably did so because of the discipline they had received.

But I think that if we spend time and listen to our children, restrict exposure to violent games and shows and discipline when needed, the chance that they will become violent will diminish greatly.

Janice Nevarez

Abingdon

Were we really more moral in earlier, simpler days?

I have read many Opinion Commentary columns and letters to the editor bemoaning that we live in a time when morals are weakening and arguing that if only God were put back in our lives, things would be better.

When was it that our morals were better? Was it when we had slavery, when blacks were discriminated against in all walks of life, women could not vote, young children worked in factories and labor was at the mercy of industry?

Or when there was no safety net for unemployed workers, no Social Security for our elderly, no regulations on banks and the stock market and no limits on industries polluting our rivers, bays and air?

Our nation is more moral than ever where it counts: concern for the welfare and rights of citizens, for our natural resources and for the world's downtrodden.

Albert Sherman

Baltimore

On National Maritime Day, fleet faces many threats

Today is National Maritime Day. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated May 22 a day of remembrance for U.S. merchant mariners who died in defense of their country.

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