Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The family – Is it making or unmaking society?
May 15 was the International Day of the Family and it is pertinent to take a look at the Ghanaian family in particular, to see if it is really helping to create the kind of society we envisage.
“It is the tasks connected with the home that are the fundamental tasks of humanity. If the mother does not do her duty, there will either be no next generation, or a next generation that is worse than none at all.” These words of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America, underline the crucial role of the home in the building of society.
A family is the smallest human population, and is usually made up of parents and children who are related to one another.
God’s plan for the family, whether nucleus or extended, was to make the home a launching pad from which man could emerge prepared for service to the world in which he or she lives.
The searching questions then are, Are parents playing the roles expected of them? What supplementary efforts should the churches make? And is the government doing enough to empower parents economically so that they can be well placed to fulfill their parental obligations?
Families of today are battling with many problems which seem to have engulfed many families so much so that one tends to question if society will survive such crises. These problems emanate from unplanned family sizes, poor role-modeling by parents, parents being too busy to spend time with their children, low incomes, inadequate and unaffordable accommodation, and lack of structures on the part of churches to deal with youth and family life issues.
These issues, no doubt, have their social consequences. In our traditional family system where the extended family his common, it is not unusual for a family to have five or six children. There are some instances where some families have eight children or even more.
Obviously, in a low-income country such as ours, one can perceive that such large – sized families cannot afford health food. Also, large families with dependants make savings and investments almost impossible, thus perpetuating the poverty cycle. Other problems resulting from large family sizes are school dropout, child labour, teenage pregnancy, homeless’ children, and crime.
It is regretful that many parents have failed to exhibit good moral behaviour at home. When parents perpetrate negative practices such as dishonesty, vindictiveness, self-centredness, intolerance, partiality, and other socially unacceptable deeds, one should not expect the fruit to be different from the stock.
In today’s world where everyone is striving to survive the hard times, parents and guardians seem not to have time for their children. So, associating with their peers to pursue recreations or amusements which may be harmful seems to be an alternative that is open to the children or youth. Possible outcomes of such associations are smoking, drunkenness, stealing, teenage pregnancy, and the use of hard drugs.
The poor quality of life of the average Ghanaian is a reflection of the prevailing poverty level resulting from low incomes. Families eat only what they can afford, and not what they want. Health is thus likely to be impaired, and this affects the physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being of the family. The issue of accommodation goes to worsen the situation, as parent’ low incomes may afford the family only a single room into which the family is crammed.
What could be the way out? The National Population Council needs to intensify its education on the economic and social rewards of small family sizes- affordable education for the children, good health, and a manageable economic burden. For, a country which has relatively large family sizes will spend more on education but eventually reap a reduced quality of education.
Parents need to spend time with their children in order to give them the affection and attention they need. Parents should encourage their children to set goals for themselves, teach them to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and guide them in their pursuits in life. Sharing life experiences with the children would also mark for them a safe path on the rugged roads of life.
Indeed, if parents make time to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of their children, it helps to create and maintain a healthy mutual relationship between the children and their parents. When adolescents in particular experience such relationships, they tend to respect laws and are well prepared to face the challenges of adult life.
The authorities concerned also need to deal seriously with the persistent phenomenon of low wages and salaries to enable families to meet their domestic needs, save and invest adequately and thereby, improve the quality of life of family members.
The issue of exemplary conduct in the home particularly that of parents cannot be ignored. This is truly so, because if our youth are to become responsible parents tomorrow, then the parents of these youth ought to exhibit virtues which the youth can carry away from home. Kind, humane and principled parents tend to imbue children with positive traits of character, while misbehaved parents are likely to bring up deviants and pessimists.
Our churches also have very important roles to play in uplifting failed families. Our churches could set up permanent structures to handle issues on children, youth, prospective couples and couples.
Workshops should be organized occasionally to educate church members on pertinent social and economic issues, including entrepreneurship, health and the environment. This way, church members would be invested with the capacity to confront the ever-increasing challenges which today’s ever–changing world poses.
Daily Graphic - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 Page: 7