Some families definitely lack the resources to cope with many of the crisis situations they face. For many it involves considerable turmoil and personal crisis. What is desired is to be able to know what to do about them.
In order to develop healthy and happy children in the context of the culture of America, there is the need to integrate the family life, the work/social life, and the spiritual life into one. To accomplish this goal, all aspects of the individual’s life must be considered and brought into line with this idea. To start on this journey, please consider the following points as they relate, or can be made to relate, to your life:
- Healthy food on time.
- Positive and steady emotional care, that is of unconditional love and its expression
- Disciplined lifestyle.
- Enabling the child to relate to her/his siblings with love, cooperation and forgiveness and extending such a relationship to society at large.
- Exercise, play and relaxation- involvement of parents is important.
- Sex education, as much as a child can understand positively. If this is not done, the child may get wrong information from outside.
- Daily family prayer and practice of spirituality.
- Teaching the value system of respect for elders, especially to parents and grand parents.
- Building self-identity, with a strong sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice, so that a child can say ‘no’ to any kind of negative demand from anyone.
- Teach social skills to deal with different kinds of persons.
- Quality time with children.
In order to achieve these goals, certain important changes can be suggested.
First, there must be a change in the parents’ view of life. Keralites currently view life in terms of material possessions, big houses, expensive cars, gold ornaments, and costly clothing. This in itself is not a problem until it interferes with the parent-child relationship. When parents’ sacrifice their family time to pursue the accumulation of wealth beyond a basic level, it becomes a problem. The parents need to prioritize their family time into their idea of success.
Secondly, there must be a change in the parents’ view of work. In the Kerala culture, men do not help with domestic responsibilities. If they can share the domestic responsibilities with their wives, there can be more quality time at home between the parents’ and children. Also, for husbands with low wages, if they could take on an even larger share of the household work, this would allow the women to work more to provide for the family and still allow for more quality time at home when the wife returns. I am not going so far to suggest that men stay home in some cases, however, because this may be emotionally unacceptable in the individual’s personal sense of responsibility to the family, and the psychological consequences of this action need to be further investigation.
Thirdly, when choosing a job, all parents should consider the distance of the workplace from home. After a long commute home, parents would be tired and frustrated from a long travel and have less energy at home with their family. By working closer to home (or even from home occasionally if possible), the parent saves 2-3 hours a day in travel time and makes the time they have at home better quality time.
Finally, an important resource that Keralite parents in America are not taking advantage of are their parents. Involvement of the grandparents in the lives of the children makes tremendous changes in the attitude and behavior of the children. Some parents have brought their parents to America, and outsiders can see the difference in their children. These children are more active in the church, there is stronger family prayer in these houses, and the children are more respectful to others, to name a few of the evident benefits. In some houses, this is not possible due to insurance considerations and issues with adjusting to American life for grandparents; however, in many cases, parents’ decide not to bring their parents because they do not want to lose their freedom and independence in the United States. In these cases, it is best that the parents’ think of the well being of their families and do what is necessary to make the grandparents influential in their children’s lives.
The changes that I suggest for the future are neither revolutionary nor inevitable. They will depend on many individual people making countless piecemeal decisions as they go about living their daily lives. Their may be many conflicts between some of these views and those traditionally held by these individuals; however, the shifts we witness will be painful at first, but then very fulfilling.