Always look on the bright side

PUBLISHED: 10:43 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:14 05 July 2010

HEAVEN help us. A nation where children need to be taught to be happy? What sort of people are we?

It sounds like something out of science fiction.

But no, here in Britain 11-year-olds are to have special American-inspired - would the idea come from anywhere else? - lessons on how to be happy, think positively and avoid depression.

HEAVEN help us. A nation where children need to be taught to be happy? What sort of people are we?

It sounds like something out of science fiction.

But no, here in Britain 11-year-olds are to have special American-inspired - would the idea come from anywhere else? - lessons on how to be happy, think positively and avoid depression. Depressed at 11. As a nation we should hang our heads in shame.

It's devastating just thinking about children dragged down by negative thoughts, poor mites. Childhood is the only time when we can be absolutely happy.

Children should never have worries, anxieties or negative, pessimistic thoughts. They should be protected from the harsh realities of life to enjoy a carefree, untroubled childhood to treasure and build on.

A time when they can learn to trust, think the best of people and be full of hope and confidence for the future.

If only. No longer are children shielded from bad situations and fearing the worst. They're exposed to too much too young, forced to grow up too quickly and deal with emotions and situations they can't understand or handle.

There's no such thing today as “not in front of the children.” More's the pity. It's all in front of the children, without a thought for how they'll cope.

Marriages break down in front of children's eyes, they're exposed to all types of angst, emotion and adult behaviour far too difficult for them to fathom or make sense out of.

They're forced to live in situations, and with people, they don't understand or want to be part of after family breakdowns.

In short, parents are treating their children as mini-adults crediting them with a maturity they could never possibly have while acting like children themselves by refusing to accept their protective responsibility as a parent.

In the past, parental rows and family problems were discussed behind closed doors. Parents would put on a united, albeit false, happy front for the children so not to worry them.

Whatever problems adults brought into the house were exactly that - adult problems. A child's job was to be a child and be happy.

Today's children even look worried. Furrowed little brows trying to make sense of why grown-ups are so hopeless at doing what they're charged to do, provide stability, normality and make life simple and straightforward for little minds. They're worried about what might happen next. What will happen to them.

Apparently that's the point of the Penn Resiliency Programme; to teach 11-year-olds to cope with difficult situations and emotions and develop positive attitudes, assertiveness, aspirations and a better approach to decision making.

A lesson they'll use is Chicken Licken who feared the sky would fall in.

What a sad indictment on our society that 11-year-olds need to be taught to cope as adults because their childhoods have been so difficult leading to an adult stoked by anti-depressants.

All because parents are too selfish and wrapped up in their own “problems” - usually self-made - to do the right thing by their children and give them a happy, untroubled childhood.

SUDDENLY the US Presidential race becomes fascinating.

Hockey mum/pitbull with lipstick Sarah Palin can't possibly be for real, can she? Surely a caricature. An invention of fiction. One woman can't be all that neatly packaged in a pencil skirt suit.

But she's gripped the world. Her name is on everyone's lips. Not because people have warmed to her, reactionary small town views and all that. They're intrigued, though, and fast becoming obsessed.

Women are trying to figure her out. How does she? (Do it all and have done it all with five kids, one not even five months and with Downs Syndrome). How is she? (Coping with a 17-year-old pregnant daughter by someone obviously not first choice for a son-in-law. Bless, he had Bristol tattooed on his ring finger to demonstrate his commitment.) How could she? (Shoot moose and be back at her desk three days after giving birth to Trig). Where does she (find the time?).

Men fancy her. They love her buttoned up primness and cute button prettiness behind those sensible specs. Her garb is the classic “take a letter Miss Jones”, on the brink of taking off her specs, unbuttoning her blouse and shaking down her hair.

To women, she's plain scary and just a stiletto away from emerging from the wilderness, her moose gun still smoking, to become the most powerful woman in the US.

Barack who? We all sniggered at John McCain's choice of running mate but the old guy has pulled a stroke of genius. Who's laughing now?

CHRISTOPHER Foster, the man who gunned down his daughter and wife in cold blood, flooded his mansion with oil after shooting the family's horses and dogs, set it alight and then blew his own head off, has been described as a “monster” by his wife's sister.

An understatement, if ever there was one.

A man so obsessed with money, status, possessions and what people thought that he could even contemplate sacrificing the people who loved him and taking his life makes him sheer evil.

Surely no one can have a pinch of sympathy for such a man, driven by vanity and greed to exterminate his supposed nearest and dearest. This tragedy serves as a lesson in today's hard times that we can afford to lose everything, apart from the people who matter.

Stuff is replaceable, people never are, as the family of Jill and Kirstie know too well and will have to live with forever.

JUST when you think the government has seen sense, something even more barking is suggested.

With a hint as subtle as a brick through a ministerial car window, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Women, Dogs and Children or whatever his title is, tips the wink that Sats will be scrapped by 2010.

Hurrah, cry all of us with children in year five. No Sats.

Then we hear of the proposed replacement - a music exam style 50-minute test in reading, writing and maths to be taken when the child is ready. What? So in a class of 30 some would have been ready two years before and some will never be ready?

On what planet do these politicians live?

MANY married couple's idea of hell would be to work together.

Suggest they share one job and most would run a mile.

But Margaret and Ian Sneddon prove a couple can live, breathe, eat and sleep work together and do it, not to make a mint for themselves running a business, but for the benefit of a community of children.

Joint head teachers at Poplars Primary School, in St Margaret's Road, Lowestoft, the Sneddons are remarkable enough but their leadership impressed Ofsted inspectors as “innovative and inspirational” and gained the school 25 top grade one marks.

The Sneddons praise their pupils as a “superb group of children.” I hope the parents and the pupils appreciate the special, and very rare, talent and commitment they have in their heads and treasure them, as they should.

WITH food prices rising at the highest level since records began, one food has escaped the hike and remains the same price, if not cheaper, than last year.

Superfood broccoli, the bane of small children's meal times, oozes health and wellbeing and is the prefect staple vegetable.

My children are already moaning about the constant reappearance of broccoli - or “little trees” when they were younger and more gullible - in different guises on their plates.

It'll soon take on the mantel of Spam in Monty Python's famous Spam Song.

Lovely broccoli, wonderful broccoli. …

IN our neighbouring village, both pubs have closed. One has become a Chinese restaurant; the other is lying empty and neglected.

The pub in the village where my children go to school has also closed. So has the pub in my friend's village.

All driven out of business by lack of support by the government.

First came the smoking ban. Customers started to dwindle if they couldn't enjoy the odd puff with their drink. Then supermarkets started selling beer as cheap as pop, cheaper than it was 20 years ago.

Sales of beer in pubs is at its lowest ebb since the Depression and five pubs are closing every day forcing a British institution and tradition into future extinction. And no one seems to care. Or don't, until they're all boarded up.

Only then buying a few tinnies and supping them on the sofa because there's no choice will look like such a sad option.

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