SEATTLE -- It's a concerning development in the tsunami-ravaged towns in Japan. Relief workers see a breakdown in families trying to get their lives back on track.
Taku Kusakabe, a pastor from Washington State, now works for the YMCA in Sendai supporting families devastated by the March 11 tsunami. He says relief workers have noticed a change in the family dynamic almost unheard of before -- kids misbehaving.
"Many of them are reversing their discipline," he says. "They used to say, 'Thank you' when somebody does something for them. They don't do that anymore. They just forgot!" Other behaviors workers notice include sassing back, refusing to do homework and running around town "in gangs."
Kusakabe says some of this behavior change could be due to the months spent in large, communal centers.
"It's a big place, they have no privacy. And even in the temporary houses, parents are so exhausted. Many are depressed, they lost jobs, many lost family members, they just lost everything in their life. So they're not in a good position to do proper parenting."
High unemployment doesn't help either, he adds.
But there are rays of hope. The YMCA by chance came upon a group of elders who insisted on cooking lunch for a group of youngsters on a field trip.
"They offered to help," smiles Kusakabe, "but of course, once we agreed, they took over completely! So we told them, 'You can cook for us, but you have to bring your neighbors and we can have lunch together.'"
Now, the get-togethers are frequent, with the elders offering nourishment for the body and some loving grandparents' discipline for the soul. Says Kusakabe, who will be returning to the area soon, "Keep us in your prayers."
Kusakabe encourages people who want to help to travel to the Tohoku area as tourist-volunteers, since yen spent on lodging, transportation and food will boost the local economy. And of course, cash donations of any size can be put to good use by charities already operating in the area. The money can be used to buy laptops for students or materials for contractors from local retailers to help provide jobs.
Donations can be made on the SeattleJapanRelief website: http://seattlejapanrelief.org/organizations