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‘Church can help young who lack boundaries’

03 April 2012

by Ed Thornton

THE Archbishop of Canterbury said last week that the Church should be an “intelligent boundary-keeper” for young people, some of whom were raised by “adults who. . . haven’t themselves grown up”.

Dr Williams visited St Peter’s, Harrow, on Thursday of last week. He met representatives of Christian charities that work with young people, including Romance Acad­emy, a “sex and relationships education initiative”, and Ignite, a charity commissioned ten years ago by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, which works with young people in gangs. Dr Williams also visited the St Peter’s Medical Centre, a Primary Care Trust near to the church.

During the visit, Dr Williams spoke of “the difficulty that young people face when they have an adult carer who is themselves uneasy with themselves, dependent, needy, and thus projecting on to young people what they need, and trying to draw that out of them.

“Adults who haven’t yet learned their own emo­tional literacy and haven’t themselves grown up,” he continued.

“I’ve sometimes felt, looking around, that one of our biggest problems with parenting, especially in very challenged communities, is parents who’ve never learned about growing up. . . and are desperately ill-equipped to do it and can do a lot of damage in the process.”

Dr Williams said that churches should be places “where there are enough boundaries to make you feel safe and to give you the confidence from which you can make real decisions. . . Boundaries are not an imprisonment but a release; boundaries are about having the space where you can really make a choice that is yours, not a choice that somebody else is pushing at you.”

The Vicar of St Peter’s, the Revd Will Van Der Hart, who is the co-founder of Mind and Soul, an organisation that promotes the discussion of mental-health issues in the Church, said: “We are be­coming more aware of an iceberg of youth mental health. As families break down, young people are being raised in environments that aren’t safe.

“Young people begin to develop fractures and misunderstandings of their own self-worth. Parents with low self-esteem are trying to instil in their children something they them­selves don’t know.”

Mr Van Der Hart said that churches should create environ­ments where young people were “physically safe, sexually safe, and emotionally safe”.

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