Our Family Made Us As We Are (Part 1)
Fr. Shay Cullen
While the Pope, cardinals and hundreds of bishops and theologians meet in Rome to discuss the Church’s teaching on family life, all of us ought to be concerned as most of us were born into a family, either good, bad, broken or dysfunctional or none at all. Single parents are in their millions around the world.
Our parent’s relationship with each other and their values or lack of them is what initially shaped our character, personality, emotions and life experience. We are what we are by this life forming experience. What comes after is due to the choices we make in the face of worldly challenges and opportunities, positive or negative. They may be blessings and gifts, or greed or selfish desires. Free choice is what marks us as human, makes us saints or sinners.
We will be better and more enlightened if we can choose the positive virtues of faithfulness, honesty and service to others and consider the impact they have on building a family. It is these choices that determine the impact we can have on the children and how a happy family can be achieved in a fractured and very secular, materialistic and sexualized world.
Every community, ethnic group, culture and nation is shaped, changed and challenged by the children growing up to form the next generation. They are going to be different in many ways from their parents and grandparents or some may perpetuate the same good or bad habits, positive attitudes and relationships that they experienced with their parents.
The world is changing at a fantastic pace and while the social media and the information available on the Internet is having a massive impact on children and youth today the greatest influence on the lives of children is still the relationship with parents or the lack of it. It is this that will form and mould the personality and character of the child and youth as it has done to all of us.
Parents today must reflect on their way of parenting. Our schools and colleges do not teach units or courses how to be a good parent. And being a parent will be a reality that can never change even after death.
New parents have to figure out alone or follow their parents in building a family whether it will be a functioning and viable family at all. With so many broken homes and disintegrating families parents are challenged today to evaluate and to think and talk about their family relationships. They need to examine them for strengths and weaknesses, mistakes, failures and set out to learn how to repair and rebuild a fractured family.
Some parents and children are not a family at all but a group at war within itself with constant arguments, bickering, scoldings, resorting to violence, wife-beating and child abuse. The children are abused, become rebellious and run to the streets where they are further exploited and abused. Some are thrown into jails.
Children from such a family grow up without the values of caring because they do not experience and feel cared and loved. Their life is exhausted in trying to survive and to be loved. They tend to leave home early and neglect their ageing parents in old age. If they get none or little, they have little or none to give back.
The primary source of love in a family comes from the relationship between father and mother. Parents in such families need to reflect and examine what they are saying and doing to their children and to each other. If it is predominantly negative, insulting, verbally stressful, argumentative and even violent, it will be a dysfunctional family, a place of fear, stress and feeling unwanted and unloved. Then more often than not the father or mother abandons them. It’s a deep life-long traumatic experience.
If a married relationship is based on mutual respect, friendship and glued with strong emotional attraction and it is based on the strong positive Christian values of the gospel and example of Jesus of Nazareth, it has a real chance of success. Such a family will have happy and intelligent children. Idealistic as this sounds it is possible and there are millions who have achieved it.
These are couples that married for love and not by an unintended pregnancy. They have the best chance of success and fulfillment. They will have stayed together faithfully and honestly and strived from the beginning to bring their children to life in a family environment of positive supportive love. If so, there will be no competition, clash of egos, dominance- seeking or selfish sexual affairs. Family harmony will predominate, disagreements will be peacefully resolved. They will protect their children from the destructive influence of evil and negativity in the world.
Parents teaching these values but practicing them also are on the road to building a happy family day by day with constant mutual encouragement, support, affirmation and physical and emotional affection.
The way to allow the inherent goodness in an innocent child to emerge is to be a good, loving parent and to help others in the community with the children participating from an early age. The good example of parents forms positive, unselfish attitudes and builds a caring and loving character in their children. A meaningful and valuable life will be the happy outcome. firstname.lastname@example.org
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