Chaplain's Thought for the Week Speakers at a recent British Psychological Society conference have highlighted the developmental importance of touch as a necessary aspect of the teacher-pupil relationship. Apparently, the findings are based on robust, evidenced neuroscience. This is music to the ears of the very many teachers, counsellors, social anthropologists and, indeed, parents who have long argued that it can be emotional abuse not to hug a child who is in distress! When his disciples tried to stop children being brought to him, Jesus of Nazareth said, “Allow the children to come to me and don’t prevent them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I tell you that whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a child, may never enter it.” He took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (St Mark 10. 14-16) There is absolutely no question that the physical and psychological protection of children should be paramount. All safeguarding initiatives are supposed to work to that end. However, I have often wondered whether our contemporary culture leads to the abuse of children in more subtle and pernicious ways. Could it be that the media’s obsession with celebrity and sex is persuading children that fame and body image are all that count? Could it be that our society’s risk-aversion is stunting the natural curiosity and adventurous spirit of childhood? Could it be that the ambitious materialism of parents provides their children with everything except their company and their time? Could it be that the overloading of the school curriculum and the manic merry-go-round of after-school activities have left children with few inner resources to play creatively on their own and to enjoy their own space? Could it be that our addiction to social media and state-of-the-art technology has left children unfit, unhealthy and unable to communicate effectively in the ‘real’ world? Allegedly, almost 10% of young people have identifiable mental health problems, including eating disorders, self-harming and depressive illnesses. Perhaps we have locked, bolted, barred and chained the front door whilst leaving the back door wide open?