12 Jan Building Strong Families
This last summer my family and I took a concert tour across eleven different southern states, and in nine of these we stopped to perform. We have a family music group where all eleven of us sing. This was quite an adventure, one in which the phrase “a family that travels together unravels together” nearly came true for us! I mean that jokingly of course, but we make the trip in a motor home, and since our grandparents were willing to take the risk of coming along, the trip was made with thirteen people! Talk about close quarters, probably the reason our favorite song to perform ended up being Next to Loving I like Fighting. The massive amount of time we spent driving was what my mom liked to call “family bonding time”, although that’s probably not the name the rest of us would have given it. In spite of all this, I have to admit it was still at times, entertaining. This was likely a one-time experience, but incredibly neat for all of us. In this music group of ours, our mission statement is “Building Strong Families” and although we definitely have our moments like any normal family, we all know and appreciate how much it has meant to us throughout the course of our lives to create strong relationships and put family first. Ironically, it is experiences just like the one I’ve explained that lead me to say there is no place I’d rather be than with family.
Families come in all different styles, shapes and sizes; each are unique and all play important roles for each of us. This is why it is so paramount for us to create strong, happy families. In order to better understand this idea we’ll start off by looking at the signs of a few challenges that face families today, then we will go through some of the causes that are greatly aiding in the process of tearing down families. Finally, we strengthen our cause by arriving at a few valuable solutions.
In this great country we are so blessed to have the ability to choose how many kids we want to have, how and where we raise our families, the activities we participate in, and so much more. Yet we still have excessive, unhealthy numbers of somewhat broken families. Divorce, for example, is an extremely prominent issue today. According to the Macmillan Social Science Library, “about half of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce”. My mother’s parents got a divorce during her early teenage years. These were trying and hard times for her, but she tells me there was much to be learned from that experience. Striving to do things such as eating family dinner and playing games together made the tough situation a lot more bearable and helped keep their family connected.
Another challenge existing with families is single parenting or families with children born out-of-wedlock, which can create equally difficult circumstances. Sadly, we live in a world where countless children only know one of their parents and only have one person trying their best to lead, care, and provide for the family. I have an aunt that is a single mother. She has a beautiful little boy that she loves very much and works hard to provide for. Still, although she has a positive attitude, she’ll be the first to admit that it’s tough to make ends meet, especially without a father there to share the burdens and joys of parenting. According to Keith G. Benton, a former law enforcement officer, “one in every three live births in this country now is to a single mother; and in many inner city areas, that rate is more than doubled.” He goes on to explain many different struggles these kids are likely to deal with, but regardless of these possible outcomes, we can strive to build a strong family unit in the face of any situation, and although these factors do increase the amount of difficulty, we can often make them work out.
Now that we’ve looked at some signs of these challenges facing families, let’s go through a few of the main causes that lead to these problems for families, one of these being lack of family time. Few of us can truthfully say we haven’t felt overwhelmed and overscheduled sometime recently. Many of us have very fast paced lifestyles that don’t allow for much down time. Still, our relationships will never just stay the same, it only makes sense that they will either be strengthening or weakening continually. With this in mind, placing family first really should be among our top priorities. The only people we are almost always guaranteed a relationship with, is our family, and if that’s not motivation to get along, I don’t know what is!
Another cause could be the absence or lack of parental involvement. Now, although I know there are many very motivated kids out there, I don’t think many of us can say we’ve gone through our countless hours of and homework without being pushed and prodded. Whether it is incentives or consequences for grades, reminders to study, help with tough homework, or those endless speeches about prioritizing, I know we’ve all experienced this to some degree. Parents have such an immense impact and profound influence on their children in so many different ways. Being a teenager I realize that we aren’t so good at following our parents instructions and often feel that our knowledge in certain areas exceeds theirs, (a myth that will inevitably clear it’s self up at one point or another) but I know I speak for many when I say we’re always better off in the long run when our parents lead and guide us. What goes on in homes all across the country has a great impact on our society. It is essential for parents and children to work together to create a productive, loving atmosphere.
Selfishness greatly contributes to the cause of tearing down families as well. If even one decides to take a day off of their daily duties to the family, chaos will inevitably ensue, and yes, I am speaking from experience. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the one in charge of Monday dishes duty “forgets” their day and leaves it to Tuesday who complains it isn’t fair and ends up dumping it on the unsuspecting Wednesday… Long story short without everyone contributing it is hard to have a peaceful home.
Now that we have both observed the signs of challenges facing families, and gone through some causes of problems that are so effective in the break-up of families, we will finally attempt to strengthen our cause by arriving at a few solutions to these ever growing problems. It is also important to stop and take time out of our busy schedule for family and work toward strengthening those paramount relationships with them. Wholesome, fun activities can be easily organized; forced family fun even goes a long way at times. If we could all just step back and realize how blessed we are to have these people in our lives, I think selfishness will ultimately take care of itself, and we can have much more peace and happiness in our homes. These are just little things that can make such a positive impact on our families.
A couple of years ago my parents took a few of us older siblings to Korea, to revisit a place my dad had lived for two years. I remember one time when my dad was trying to carry on a conversation with a very friendly man we had met on the bus. After being shown a picture of our family he said “Ah, rich man.” This left us a bit confused, until he went on to explain that being rich in family was the best kind of wealth any man could have. This experience served as a major reminder to me of how blessed I am to have family. It is the thing I am most proud to be a part of in my life. At school and in my daily social life I am able to look around and see many of my peers who feel the same way about their families, but I also know many who don’t have the same ideal family situation. From what I’ve observed there is a large number of kids from my high school alone that have somewhat broken families. No matter what type of family we have been raised with, no matter what the world tells us is the norm, we can decide now to make responsible, mature choices that will enable us to build strong, happy homes in the future. I believe the point at which we can honestly say “there’s no place I’d rather be than with family” is one we should strive for, and will bring long term happiness. I hope we can all resolve to create a strong link in a chain that could extend over generations of our posterity and bring countless blessings for many families to come.
Shalese is a 15-year-old high school student from Eagle, ID