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Toronto (Canada)

06, June 2003

M. M. Afrah

Ah, the joy of freedom, peace, democracy and starting a new life in our adopted countries. Good schools and books for the kids, welfare checks, food stamps and Medicare for many of us, free of the hail of bullets and kidnappings in the old Mogadishu neighborhood.

Except one very significant fixation, a prime on kids' health.

Now imagine if one of our ancestors has arrived in a caravan of camels, sheep and goats in a modern North American or West European city. Imagine again our ancestor being raised on Soya formula and baby food from plastic bottles, instead of mother's milk-and then being bundled off to a kindgarten after his/her first vaccination shots.

Finally, imagine our imaginary ancestor growing up in a modern chemically-saturated home and school, and also spending much of his/her waking time in front of a TV or video games, nourished with French fries, hamburger, pizza and soda pop.

Current research into the health hazard children routinely face indicates that the chances are slim for any child today to grow up healthy and with a fully functioning brain. No wonder many of them are joining the fast growing obese population in North America. Daddy too became what is termed as potato coach glued to the family's Television set.

And as a teenager he starts wearing ear-rings and oversized, tent-like pants and a huge chain around his neck. He is probably on drugs. Ask him why he is the way he is and his reply is usually: "It is the cool thing, man!"

Many years ago, before many of us criss-crossed the Continents, I would never believed the words of a veteran Somali seaman "The children born abroad would lose their cultural identities and there's nothing you can do about it." Within fifteen years those words became reality. Worse, parent abuse is rampant and many of these teens of both sexes talk back to their parents in abusive languages and even use violence, unheard of in the old country.

Recently a young Somali mother I met in a grocery store complained to me that her 15-year-old son would not listen to her any more and frequently calls her: Hey you! (in English) instead of Hooyo (mother) "and poof he goes, God knows where, with his like-minded friends who share similar disregard for basic hygiene and similar fascination for buggy pants and ear-rings. Most week days he skips school, using a feigned illness as an excuse", she lamented.

When I told her that there are child psychologists and the books they had written about how to cope with delinquent children like her Kahin (he now changed his name to Cohen), she expressed remarks like these: "Let me tell you, I am brought up very nicely and my parents never heard psychology or pediatrician. I got my psychology from my hard working mother and father. I feel certain that education and pampering our children with luxuries does not always give them common sense. In fact it spoils them beyond imagination" she said and pushed her grocery cart nervously.

Is prevention possible? Can parents protect their children? You bet they can. The good news is that this predicament is within the realm of the possible. Let's start with the fetal exposure of environmental toxicants and the standard grossly nutrient-deficient North American diet. Almost everyone in North America now agree that violent movies, promiscuous sex, video games and the ghastly TV commercials are the number one enemies that could have impact on our teenagers of both sexes.


There are questions over how to punish a difficult child. Many Somali families in the Diaspora whose new circumstances left them how to cope with their offspring born in North America and Western Europe. They should not spank them, for spanking a child in the West is a criminal offence (it is called child abuse), instead they should arrange for them anger managing consultants or family psychotherapist. If that fails to work then these delinquent children should be carted away to an approved school, where they are given US Marine-like drill. It had worked for many parents. And certainly it will work for you too.

But a middle-aged mother of four said it is an outgrowth of the close-woven family fabric that she knew as a child.
"Certainly the Somali woman of today doesn't do everything the way mama or grandma used to do. But in the recess of her mind is the thought that if grandmother could bring up model children in the dirt-poor of Hodan or Wardhigley quarters, then grandmother's method are likely to be better than the pediatrician who claims to be specialist in behaviour problem," she said calmly.

The only weapons at grandmother's disposal were smooth talk and a smile of joy. She was also all ears to listen to the child's side of any story without interrupted or ridiculing him. She avoided the daily battle over food and ensured that her child gets the nutrients he or she needed. She had succeeded in many cases, except those few devils who qualified as Mooryaan during the brutal clan wars.

With dedication and hard work our youth could qualify in the fields of science and technology, literature, music, sports and other national and international accomplishments. They did it before (that's before we have been uprooted from our land) and they can do it now. However getting there would be a problem, such as between trying to improve their school grades and times for training. But this should not prevent them from competing with other youths in the international spotlight, as the old saying goes: "Where there is will there is a way."

Say "Yes I can…"

By M. M. Afrah©2003,
Email: afrah95@hot

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