What Children Worry About Most

Quote: “It is well known that parents spend a lot of time worrying about their children’s future, but do they know their children are worrying too?”

Watching the Midday News today an item caught my attention. They were talking about a survey done of 10 to 13 years old.

43% worry about their future and 37% about family. In the news item, they were mostly talking about the latter.

It made me think about the time when I was 10 to 13 years old.  That was 1945 to 1948 and it was a particularly bad time to grow up in Berlin after WW II.

Luckily we weren’t bombed out and still lived in our now windowless apartment. My mother worked as a Trümmerfrau during the cold winter months and beyond. 

My father, unknown to us at that stage, was in an American PoW camp. Did I worry about my future? Not one bit it only could get better, I thought. But it did not for a long while.

For me, it was more worries about the family.

Dad returned in May 1946 and brought my two sisters along whom he had picked up on the way from Bavaria. We were a family again for the first time since 1939.  On that beautiful Spring day, the future gave us a glimmer of hope.

It was not to be. Dad had lost a lot of weight and his old job as a taxi driver was not available. No cars, no petrol! After a few months of unemployment, he landed a job with a road construction company and had to work with a jackhammer. That was heavy work for his emaciated body. The food was rationed and meals were never enough for him.

Sometimes during the night he got up and ate food that was for us kids for the next day. That was when the trouble started. My mother accused him of stealing food from his children. Dad started to sell things from the household to buy extra food on the Black Market. Anything could be bought there if one only had the money. Some of the money he took to the racecourse do “double it” as he said. He never had a big win.

So arguments arose often for any reason, or so I thought. Dad became abusive and family life became a nightmare for us all. Finally, my mother could not stand it anymore and she left him. She took us children with her.  On the day before, when I realised we would move out and the family would break up, I started to cry. My mother mistook my weeping and offered me to stay with dad. That was not what I wanted. I wanted the family to stay together.

Dad was especially nice on the night before and he told us about his wartime experiences, especially in Italy. He was a motor lorry driver taking supplies to the front line. The convoys were constantly under attack by American warplanes.  As the convoy proceeded on the high mountain roads along the Apennines  Mountains the planes were actually flying below them and they attacked the German lorries sideways. There must have been carnage.

It took me about fifty years to realise that Dad actually suffered from PTSD. In those days I did not know anything about it. And if he had said anything to Mum she would probably have said to him, “Pull yourself together!”

Through all this time when my parents had marriage problems, Berlin was blockaded by the Soviet Union and it was the time of the Airlift. We had even less than after the war. One hour of electric power a day and that during the night when industries worked less.

We all worried about the family. How would we cope? As it turned out, badly. After Mum had left Dad things became quieter for us. No more fights. I became the go-between who had to see Dad every month and collect the maintenance money for us kids. My mother had no trust in him but he always paid what had been agreed on.

They were divorced in early 1949 but remarried twenty-five years later so Mum would be able to receive a widows pension after he died from lung cancer. So he looked after us even after he passed away. Mum shared half of his pension with us children.

Coming back to the survey mentioned above I can understand that children at that age worry about the family as they themselves try to find and understand their place in the world. Their childhood comes to an end and they become aware that their parents are not perfect and struggle with life’s challenges. So they question themselves, what will become of us?

Especially now with Climate Change giving us all a big scare. Children formed a new Crusade with their Friday for the Future movement. In my time our problems were more immediate and we had not much to lose. But now, the children realise that the future looks pretty grim if nothing is being done.

I worry with them and for them.