Problem In The Parent-Child Relationship
Our children are lacking the presence of parents because of the busy life in the United States and the demands of work on both parents. Our fathers are working more than 40 hours a week and our mothers are working almost 60 hours a week. A typical day for these parents starts before the children rise, with a hurried breakfast followed by a tedious trip to the office, either by commuter train or bus or by a tense and frustrating drive on a crowded freeway. They may arrive home, worn from work and a tiresome commute, so late. They are not in mood for family prayer and a leisurely family dinner of sharing daily experiences.
It limits the quality time spent with children and the guidance that parents are expected to provide. The impact of this phenomenon on the parent-child relationship is huge and negative. This affects the personality development of the child.
Those who become successful in life have come from homes where parental attitudes towards them were favorable and where a wholesome relationship existed between them and their parents. A wholesome relationship between parents and children produce happy, friendly children who are constructive and affectionate members of the group.
The word ‘parenthood’ implies its heavy obligations as well as its rich joys because it involves their participation in the continuing creative work of God. The couple by using God-given powers of creation brings a child into the world. The mission of parents is not ended with the generation of life but is prolonged in the care given to the child. The transmission of human life in a way adequate to its dignity demands the prolonged love and protection of the family.
Both parents are responsible to God to properly expose their children to spiritual training. The father and mother should help ground the child in firm understanding of God’s character and also in the relationship God wants to have with his people in general, the church and society.
Through the family, children are introduced into the Church. A truly Christian family is therefore vital for the life and development of God’s people. By praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them, and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ, both the Eucharistic and ecclesiastical body, the parents fulfill the responsibility as the workers of God.
Parents are the most powerful force in child’s life, in every way. Genetics determines the child’s physical characteristics, of course, but what the parents do and how the parents do it, the parents’ attitudes and viewpoints, will influence how the child views people, events and the world as it is and can be. What the parent does or does not do will leave an impression. How much the parents are there or not there will be remembered. The interaction will serve as a framework for how the child goes about the business of living.
What the children of the Indian Orthodox immigrant parents in the United States lack is the presence of their parents. Children do not get their parents’ love through hugging, smiling and talking.
The Focal Theological Issues
According to the Bible and the Tradition of the Church, marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and formation of children. Family is an institution instituted by God. A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family.
The foundational theological understanding of the family and parenting can be titled in the following ways:
Family- A Reflection of Holy Trinity
An ideal family, like the blessed Trinity, is a unity in trinity and a trinity in unity. There is neither selfishness nor jealousy in any member of a perfect home as all live for others and all resources are shared for the common benefit and the benefit of each other. “The Triune God is a sharing God. When sharing is perfect, it leads to unity.”
Trinitarian theology says that Father is perfect love, the Son is perfect love and the Holy Spirit is perfect love and yet there are no three loves, but only one love. So perfection is when every family on earth are brought to the family of the Heavenly Father by the sharing infinite love. Human beings, male and female, are made in the image and likeness of God, the Holy Trinity. Human nature mirrors divine nature. A family is made to reflect not only the unity of the trinity but also the union of the three persons. “Microdiakonia of a family is the best example of Trinitarian diakonia”. The father and the mother serve each without any sense of superiority or inferiority. Both serve and minister to the need of the child without any payment.
The nature and being of God is love. “Love is the self-communication of the good.” It is the power of good to go out of itself, to enter into the being, to participate in other being, and to give itself for the other being. Love wants to live and to give life. It wants to open up the freedom to live. That is why love is self-communication of the good without self-renunciation, and the self-giving of the good without self-dissolution. The loving person enters entirely into the other who he or she loves, but in that other he or she is entirely himself or herself. In this way, the perfection of love is more deeply experienced in the best family. Our heavenly Father’s perfection is in Himself as He has the Son to love and to be loved and the Holy Spirit to share the love of the Father and the Son as the bond of love. The perfection of His Love is also in the Trinitarian existence. In a happy family there is happiness in totality and in each of the three units (i.e. Father, Mother and Child).
The absence of the parents in the family damages the Trinitarian aspect of love and sharing and that damages the parent-child relationship.
Procreation:Participation in God’s Creativity
The purpose and meaning of the union of man and woman is not limited to the reciprocal and mutual completion. The aim of their bond goes beyond this. It is to bring forth children like themselves and so carry the flow of life on further. God blessed the first man and woman saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Here the purpose of man and woman is expressed, to be fruitful and to multiply, which is given as a blessing not a command. The words express a mandate and a blessing. God charges man and woman to multiply, for by this means the plan of the Creator is to be continued and the work of the creation unfolded.
The word ‘parenthood’ implies its heavy obligations as well as its rich joys because it involves their participation in the continuing creative work of God. The couple by using God-given powers of creation brings a child into the world.
Parenting: Extension of Divine Caring
The orientation of marriage to the good of children is a truth taught by the Holy Scripture. “It confers on the spouse the honor of becoming co-operation with God and embraces a twofold aspect: the procreation and caring of children.” The mission of parents is not ended with the generation of life but is prolonged in the care given to the child. The transmission of human life in a way adequate to its dignity demands the prolonged love and protection of the family.
Parenting is an important part of the on-going creation of the world. “Two cultural emphases positively assist a deeper realization of Christian Parenting today. First, there is a greater valuing of interpersonal life, and second, increased attention directed towards the developmental stages of life.”The parent-child relationship is clearly both interpersonal and developmental.
Family: Miniature of the Society
The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.
The relationship within the family brings an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a sharing of thoughts and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing. People from this kind of families will make the society better.
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.