Looking at the events of 2012 brings to mind the common thread of many conversations I have had lately with family and friends. They center around the subject of our society and how it has changed. We can all agree change can be a good thing, but in many cases it can also be bad, leaving us with a society facing serious problems, especially for our young people.

As a former Margate teacher and later a school counselor, I am often asked the same question: Do you think children are different today than when you were teaching? My answer is always the same. Today's children have the same needs. The need for security, acceptance, love, physical well-being and a positive self-image. However, due to no fault of their own, our society has changed. This means we must ask ourselves, as adults, whether these needs are being met.

Although, I was never a parent, being a teacher certainly convinced me that being a parent has to be the most rewarding experience and also the most challenging. Parents I have talked to today certainly seem to have a more arduous task raising children due to the direction our society has taken.

In the Margate School District, we introduced a program for parents and other adults who were involved with young people, such as, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or family relatives. The program was called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, or STEP. It offered concrete suggestions on dealing with the many challenges facing young people. The program gave insights into the relationship of adults and young people. It showed parents and other adults ways to encourage independence with responsibility, mutual respect and cooperation, self-confidence and self-esteem, and democratic relationships.

Of course, it is the parents' responsibility to raise their children. However, I believe, all adults share in that responsibility. We must all do our part and set the example.

Since retirement, I have had the opportunity to interact with many of my friends' children. From my perspective, growing up today is not an easy task for them. They are faced with many obstacles that did not exist, to any great degree, in years past.

Today there is so much more pressure on our young people to be accepted by their peers. For many, the choice is to go along with the crowd, to do whatever everyone else is doing. However, the wrong choice can have serious consequences. To name a few, driving under the influence of alcohol, experimenting with drugs and indulging in promiscuous behavior. We also see our young people dealing with competition among their peers. So often we hear, "My friend has it, so why can't I have one, too?"

Our young people need us more than ever today. They need to know the adults in their lives understand the difficulties they are facing. They need adults who constantly encourage them to make the right choices.

Communication is the most valuable tool for success. Without it, problems very rarely get solved. We should ask ourselves some important questions:

• Do we listen to our children with sensitive interest?

• Set an example?

• Supervise, guide and set limits?

• Take a definite interest in a child's activities?

• Communicate what we expect of a child?

• Respect the right of a young person's desire to be an individual?

• Convey to our young people in word and deed the difference between right and wrong?

• Communicate the value of honesty?

I am convinced our young people are reaching out for our guidance and looking to us for direction, support and positive relationships as they struggle through these difficult times. We all have a stake in our children's future. There is no greater joy than to see our young people grow into responsible men and women and have productive, meaningful, happy lives. By helping them do that, our own lives will be greatly enriched.

Citizen Columnist Anne Cibulla-Pancoast, a retired Margate resident, worked in the Margate schools as a teacher and counselor for 30 years.

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