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Good news for parents

Debra W. Haffner's new book is full of good news about raising children.
By Christopher L. Walton
Fall 2008 8.18.08

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As my wife and I prepared for the birth of our first child in May—a healthy redheaded boy—we heard encouraging and discouraging advice from all quarters. We couldn’t help but notice the alarming trend stories in the media about rare diseases, rising costs, troubled schools, and other threats to healthy children. So we were especially grateful when other parents and grandparents told us how excited they were for us and how rewarding parenthood was for them, and urged us to avoid the anxiety peddlers. We’re trying to follow that advice.

The Rev. Debra W. Haffner’s latest book takes a refreshing approach to parenting. A sexuality educator and Unitarian Universalist community minister who is not shy about taking the progressive side in the media’s “culture wars”—she sparred with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly over the acceptability of telling a young child that babies grow in the “uterus” (see uuworld.org, August 17, 2007)—Haffner has just released a book full of good news about raising children. What Every 21st-Century Parent Needs to Know shows how many of the anxiety peddlers are selling an unjustifiably bleak view of the challenges facing parents. How refreshing to learn that the rate of teen alcohol and drug use is down, that school violence is down, that child abductions are down, and that children are not, by and large, overwhelmed by extracurricular activities. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Haffner refers to her experiences as a minister and Unitarian Universalist throughout the book, but one chapter—excerpted as “How To Raise a Mensch” in this issue on page 31—explicitly addresses the importance of cultivating children’s ethics and spirituality.

Speaking of children: The Rev. Meg Barnhouse offers some advice to new parents like me in this issue’s “Reflections” section (page 18). She observes: “Love is hard on the heart. Your heart can’t remain perfect and proud, unscarred and perky. It will be worn and joyous, wise and beat up, and full of sorrow and amazement.” Barnhouse’s columns appear regularly on our weekly website, uuworld.org.


About the cover artist: Ron Waddams, a British Quaker, has been making paintings that express his commitments to humanitarianism and the peace witness of the Society of Friends for several decades. You can learn more about him and see more of his paintings at larrenart.org.uk.

Our coverage of the UUA General Assembly starts on page 36, but the seven pages we dedicate to GA only scratch the surface. There’s more at our website. Visit uuworld.org, click “Current Issue,” and select “General Assembly Online.”

We’d like to thank Rosalie Davis, a member of the First Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, for her work as an editorial intern this summer. You can learn more about our internship program at uuworld.org/about/internships.shtml.

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