attention; his sense of inferiority can be relieved by discovering and recognizing his gifts and abilities that have been ignored. A ‘bossy’ child may need to be given more responsibilities. Most of this can be done and should be done, through actions and attitudes rather than with words. Preaching at children does very little good; as a matter of fact, it can do harm when it teaches them to conceal real motives and emotions with words that do not really correspond to them. The basic aim of Christian education within the family is to convey to children the concept of what is good and what it means to feel good. This ‘good’ means the condition of blessedness, joy, inner peace and love for others. If the children have in their home the basic desire to be good and have really experienced what it means ‘to feel good,’ a solid foundation has been laid for their Christian growth.
The larger family
The trend in our society today is to have the family reduced to the parents-children unit. There is probably not much that an individual can do about this, but at least it can recognize the importance of the larger family group in a Christian home. Those who have had the opportunity to experience growing up in a large family will always have blessings to share, but we should not be carried away thinking that there were no flaws in that system. For younger children, family and their home is their world. Their relationships with parents are unavoidably of a rather selfish nature: the parents are the providers of all things; the parents are the power that regulates their life. Generally speaking, children are the centre around which the parents’ life revolves.
On the other hand, relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are generally of much more relaxed nature. There is a bond of affection, of mutual belonging, but it is looser. For children this provides a great opportunity for new experiences in relationships. Though the days of the large family are over, we should at least make an effort to maintain family relationships through memory, through correspondence, through visits and through family celebrations. There is still a place for the family album. Affectionate relationships within the ‘larger family’ are a very wholesome transitional experience leading from the small family ties into membership in society as a whole.
The family world-view
One of the most important aspects of family life is common understanding of life, of the purpose of life, of happiness, of the ‘hierarchy of life values’ – of all that makes up one’s world-view. Many would argue it is difficult to attain a common understanding in the case of ‘mixed marriages’, but I would strongly argue that very often it is quite absent even when husband and wife are formally of the same faith. I have seen married couples who truly realized a union of love in their marriage and whose ‘oneness’, or common vision of life, somehow included accepting one another’s differences.
Basically a common vision of life is built on a common concept of happiness. The desire to be happy is ingrained in the human being. Many of the influences that surround us are an appeal to the human desire for happiness. The longing for happiness, the instinctive feeling that it is a desirable state of life and that which is intended for us, seems to be inborn in man. However, the truth is: we feel unhappy when we accept evil as an authentic part of our real self. Everyday life, and especially family life, is a means of reaching for the real person, establishing relations with the real person and refusing to accept that which is unreal, temporary and evil as part of the essential nature of the person we love. Every day of our life is given to us for finding at least a particle of that goodness and joy which are the essence of eternal life.
The Christian understanding of happiness as a ‘blessed state,’ like that described in the Beatitudes, need to be taught to parents and in turn to be taught and exemplified by them. Blessedness is a state of love and of loving communication, a sense of trust, and the freedom to grow and fulfill one’s God-given creative gifts. Unfortunately the idea of Christianity held by many lay persons is lacking often this sense of joy and blessedness, and instead Christianity is identified with a formal set of duties. The most urgent task in the Christian education of parents is not so much to emphasize their duties in observing church rules, in making their children attend Sunday school, etc., but in unfolding to them the meaning of the basic realities of life. Only when parents begin to ask themselves such basic questions as ‘What is happiness?’ ‘What is sin?’ ‘What does it do to us?’ ‘What is love?’ ‘What do my children mean to me?’ ‘What do I want for them?’, will they begin to perceive the true nature of their duties and obligations. Observing rules is important and laws must not be neglected, but first the parents must be motivated by an insight into the meaning of life.