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Promoting Healthier Parent-Child Relationships in Our Time - 2nd Quarter On-going Formation Talk

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my name is Elizabeth Reindorf and over a number of years, I have been managing a preschool Teacher Training School, training caregivers and teachers for crèches, kindergartens, day care centres and homes where children of the age of 0 to 8 are cared for.

I have also been involved with children for over twenty years as a Director of a company supplying educational materials to schools and interacting with teachers and

parents throughout the country.

I would like to thank you for inviting me to be with you this morning.  

A few weeks ago, Fr. Wisdom Larweh contacted me regarding the programmes being held by your parish during this year, to encourage and enhance positive growth of faith of members.  The topic he forwarded to me, ‘Promoting healthier parent-child relationships in our time’ was one that I found challenging.  

As a daughter, parent of two adult children and two grandchildren, I acknowledge experiencing some challenges in my own childhood and in bringing up our two grown children.  

Two incidents come to my mind immediately. Firstly, I was born into a very strict home. My father was in the military and our home was run in military style. I studied in cape coast during my secondary years and not once whilst I was there did my parents visit me. Whenever I would reminisce with friends or family I would always tell them this. This went on for years. I began to question myself about his statement and it was only then that I realized how angry and hurt I was that they didn't. This thing was buried deep in the recess of my mind.  

Secondly, our younger daughter said to me a few weeks ago, "mummy, do you remember you used to travel a lot and leave us with our grandparents when we were children and how we used to be so unhappy and sad?"  I was surprised. I did not know that. 

We do not know the things which go on in our children's minds.

I pray that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we might at the end of the morning, all have a better understanding of what this topic entails and how we can work towards improving our relationships with ourselves and our children and wards too.

I would like to start by us asking ourselves the following questions, ‘as parents who have a family or young people who intend to start a family…

 

  1. What kind of family are you the head of or what kind of family would you like to be the head of?  
  2. What core values and principles do you believe in and strive to abide by?   
  3. What would you consider important in the raising of your children? 
  4. What kind of values would you like to instill or inculcate in them? and
  5. What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind through your children remembering that by your fruits you will be known?

Children are precious gifts and wonderful blessings from God and each parent or guardian is the custodian of the child here on earth.  Each child has a purpose here on earth and the role of the parent is important in the life of the child.  Parents are expected to collaborate with God in the administration of the lives of their children.  They are to nurture, protect and guide the child until he or she reaches adulthood and most importantly until the children fulfil the purpose for which god has brought them on earth through you. So once the child is born or handed over to them, parents and guardians must recognize that they have been chosen by God as caregivers of these children in his kingdom.  Parenting is tough.  It is not for a day, it is for a lifetime.  It takes huge effort, work, perseverance and determination and we cannot jump off the track we have to remain on the parenting track until God takes us off it.  In everything thing we do in the life of our children we must always remember that we have to make account for how we cared for them.   

God also desires that children are born and raised within the loving protective warmth of a home similar to the home of our lord Jesus Christ.    A home of a Christian family should be a place where God is ever present and a foundation stone for where children will learn by work and examples, and listen, observe and imitate things around them. This home should also be a place where parents instill and transmit to their children, Good habits, customs and traditions. It is where parents teach them to be obedient, hardworking and honest are taught and prepared for the life ahead and where there is mutual care and respect, trust and affection between parents and children.

So a sound parent-child relationship is one infused with the love of God and in which parents respect their roles as parents and custodians of their children and children respect their parents as people given to them by God to guide them on their life journey.  A relationship in which parents and children recognize that life is precious and they have been given to each other as special gifts from God.  The love of Christ is about humility, obedience, trust, respect, surrender and compassion. Both parents and children should strive to imitate the love of Christ and display acceptable behavior towards each other.

Parent-children relationships have always been under a strain.  It is not new. Parents expect their children to love, respect and be obedient to them.  They expect them to be responsible, work hard and make them proud.  Children expect their parents to love them, be there for them, guide, protect and support them emotionally and financially. Unfortunately in most cases this is not how it turns out. We get perfect human beings and then life happens. Suddenly we are not in control anymore and things do not go the way we want it to. Parenting is not taught. It is like walking through a maze.  It is tough and complex with twists and turns.  Parents are constantly trying to find the correct route to bring up their children.  We are hitting walls, retreating and moving continuously until we exit. Now more than ever relationships between parents and children have become extremely difficult. 

As a manager of a training school and a model school for preschool children I see that the factors that are working against families in modern times resulting in an unhealthy parent child relationship are numerous but I wish to mention just a few:-

The inadequate expression of love, lack of family time, the inability of parents to balance work and home life, shirking of responsibility of parents, the inability of parents to prioritize and set adequate parameters and boundaries in their homes, lack of communication, the influence of the techno world and theinability of the parents to recognize the uniqueness of their children.

The expression of love is very most important in any family.  Love means expressing of affection, kindness, compassion, and concern and the giving of oneself to each other selflessly.  It also means covering your children with prayer, guiding them in their faith and education, supporting your children through thick and thin and vigilance in taking care of them.  Our behavior as parents is most often devoid of love.  It is influenced by how we ourselves are brought up.  Most of us are unable to love selflessly and unconditionally, sacrificing personal tastes and interests and putting the needs and concerns of our family before our own.  When the children are born we smother them with love and affection and as they grow and things begin to get tough and our relationships and work are straining from all forms of pressure, we begin to exhibit behavior which are not acceptable to society and do not in any way augur well for the wellbeing of the relationships with our children.  Our behavior results in friction and gradual distancing, our children are intimidated and afraid, they feel betrayed and lonely seeking comfort with others and developing other psychological problems which result from our physical, mental and sometimes sexual abuse, controlling and manipulative behavior, and display of anger and resentment.  We should not forget that the home is where children learn. They learn from us.

Love translates into time.  Time is a period given by God to mankind so that we may fill it with love for him and for those around us.  Once time is past, there will not be another.  The time we have is short but long enough for us to tell and show our loved ones how much we love them.  In these modern times, time seems to be even shorter. There seems to be no time for anything. Seven days in the week is not enough. We work during the week and other social commitments take over the weekend. In most families both parents are working in order to make ends meet.  They have to leave home earlier and earlier.  School going children are leaving home as early as 5am and returning as late as 8pm.  They get home drained from the pressures of work and some of us unfortunately are unable to cope.  Our model school is getting more and more enquiries from parents who request to bring their children earlier than they are doing now and picking them up later.  Some are also requesting weekly boarding for their preschool children.  I have parents telling me how exasperated they are with their toddlers behavior when they are at home, but investigations reveal that these are children who have not seen their parents for days and when they eventually see them they are so excited, clamoring for attention.  Just being there when they wake up or getting slightly earlier can solve the problem. 

I have parents telling me that their children only eat cereal, they do not eat proper food.  This is because they are never available at mealtimes.  They do not know what their children eat. In some cases, Parents are not able to find time to be involved in the children’s education in regular school, during weekends and during vacation.  Because parents are unable to spend enough time or do not spend time with their children, they are not able to stamp any authority at home and the role they should play as administrators is totally non-existent. 

Children are not accepting directives from parents, they are disrespectful and do not recognize the role of their parents as heads of the family.  Young children greatly suffer from this lack of contact with their parents.  They become boisterous and disruptive.  When they see their parents they become emotional, crying, clinging and uncontrollable.  

A basic school I was involved with were always surprised that parents would queue all night to get an admission form for their wards and once children are accepted at the school they do not attend PTA meetings, sports or fun day activities, speech days or collect reports. 

Young children feel abandoned, betrayed and lonely. They feel that parents are not there for them, especially when we break our promises to them and feel also that they cannot rely on us.

Love translates into taking full responsibility for your children.  Parents are shirking their responsibilities in all ways which are affecting the lives of their children. Parents are unable to balance their home and work life.  Work hours have crept into their home hours.  If it can be afforded, children would be sent to their grandparents or family member after school.  If not, it is more likely that they would be at home with the house help or being minded by the driver. Children who are left in the care of adults who are not responsible means possible exposure of children to verbal, physical or sexual abuse.

I remember when our children were young, we had a driver who would take our children and other children in the estate near us to the same school. I offered to take the children because I did not see why five parents living in the same area would all be dashing to the same school. One Christmas a parent sent me a box of chocolates and I thought that was a kind gesture and was telling my children about it.  The children then told me that the driver got a box of chocolates too but he was very unhappy about it because he was expecting money. Apparently he had been verbally abusing the children over the years just because he had to wake up and come over from the other side of town to pick them up.  I only found this out because I got a box of chocolates.  

It is even more likely that children will be left in school to be picked up nearer the closing time of their parents work hours.  I know of children who have been left in school way after school closing hours without the knowledge of the parents because whoever was supposed to pick them up did not.  In one case known to me Children have been left in school overnight because both parents have been so busy at work, came home late and did not check whether the children were home or not.  Children who are in these situations are frightened and feel a sense of abandonment. These feelings of abandonment remain ingrained deep in the recess of the minds of our children resulting in the holding of resentment against parents, anger issues and commitment issues. 

My elderly aunt had been having problems with her child for over forty years. She only just found out why. It was because she sent her child to Boarding school at the age of six. 

This shirking of responsibility is translating into excesses by parents. More is better. Because we cannot find time and are not doing what we should be doing, we are not present in the lives of our children as we should be, we are filled with guilt.  How do we assuage this guilt?  We over indulge our children.  We indulge in excesses which end up tilting the scale over.

One of our teachers brought a child to see me who wanted to talk to me. The child was then about four and she told me about these boys next door who were always worrying her. I asked her mother and it was true. She leaves the child with a minder and is away for long periods of time. This is the same parent who would go completely overboard on her child's birthday; delivering all kinds of stuff to the school. 

We cannot buy our children’s love.  They will recognize that that our behavior is because of our guilt and they will take advantage of us and we will constantly be at their beck and call. They will continually wind us up reminding us of our guilt.  We should look at your own behavior and check it.  How were we brought up?  How far has over indulgence brought some of us? We should live a life of moderation and encourage our children to do so too encouraging them to focus on those around us who do not have. .   

As children approach their teen years, they need encouragement and understanding.  They are dealing with puberty and changes which need explanation.  They need their parents now more than ever. Our role of advisors is being taken over by their peers.  They are getting information which they should be getting from us from their peers and from the internet.  Technology has revolutionized the world including our children.  This is because we are not able to take up the mantle to steer our children through these stormy years.  Technology is good and a wonderful tool for advancement of knowledge but what do we see now?  Most of us have no idea how much information our children are accessing from the internet and how that virtual world is affecting our children. The virtual world has become their hiding place. That's where they satisfy the needs we are too busy to supply. It can be a world of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment.

We are supplying them with all the gadgets, phones, tablets, iPad, tablets, etc. etc.  but are we setting the boundaries for the use of these gadgets? 

 Rebellious children are behaving in a certain way for a reason.  Most often parents do not know the reason why.  Children are separating from their parents and abandoning values that they have been raised with and gravitating towards their peers.  They are questioning and wanting to make choices and their own decisions.  Parents are panicking because of the loss of control.  Parents need to know the core reason for the outward behavior but how are they going to do that if there is not means of communication. Communication between parents and children is very important but parents are shying away from face to face interactions with their children.  This could be because of our back ground and how we were brought up.  Some of us did not have much dialogue with our own parents.  Parents are avoiding conflict and if there issues which they are not able to handle, they sweep it under the carpet.  Some parents have their own issues to deal with and find having to speak with their children very difficult and trying.  Some can simply not find the time to do so.  Families are abandoning more traditional forms of communications and resorting to communicating behind screens.  We are all now sitting in the same room or house with members of our families and are all either texting or sending whatsApp messages to each other.  You all know Social media has many advantages and one of which is communicating with and reconnecting with friends and family.  

The whole idea of the internet is being able to connect with people who are not close to you so when parents and children abuse it as a replacement for actual human communication it contributes to becoming problematic because there is a level of personal interaction that is missing between parents and their children. When children are going through these changes, parents must be so involved with their children that they recognize the change and they should find ways to make themselves available and accessible to their children and help them by listening and speaking, guiding and supporting them through the transition

As our children approach adulthood we must encourage independence of thought, ideas and action.  We are holding on to our children for too long and not enabling them to branch out and find their own feet.  We are tending to expect them to remain on the course we have set for them, the career choices we have made for them and not allowing them pursue their God given talents.  Young adults feel that they are being stifled by their parents and they are not understood.  They also feel that they are under pressure from their parents’ strictness and archaic ideas.  Parents knowing what the future entails try to let them understand that nothing is what it seems and in so doing are over protective and we know the pitfalls and try to prevent them from falling into them. It is important that at this age, parents give their children full support.  Encourage them in their creativity and adventures.  They should support them and keep communication channels open.  We must also recognize the uniqueness of each child, all our children are different, and encourage each of them in their individual pursuits accordingly.  It is also important that we are constantly seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in the lives of these children.  Children must be dropped into the middle of the ocean in order that they can find a way to swim back to shore.  Let them venture out of their comfort zones. Parent need to trust that with the upbringing and guidance they have given them, they will survive when they leave them and go out into the world.  Young adults also have feelings of failure and rejection because they feel that they are not meeting their parents expectations and do not deserve their approval.  Children need their parents to trust them and be confident that they will survive the jungle and they values instilled in them will keep them afloat 

If you recognize the purpose of God in your child’s life and seek constant guidance from him you should not fear that your child will not survive.

All these points affect both parents and Children of all ages.  Parents feel burdened and unhappy by the fact that they are unable to play their roles as parents and children are losing respect for them and are seeking security elsewhere. Parents can see what is happening to their children and their family life and are also affected by this situation emotionally and psychologically. Children of this generation are unlike the generation of the past.  It is a fast track generation in which everything happens now.  Children whose parents are setting parameters and boundaries do not understand that you are preparing them for what the future holds and are therefore unhappy if they do not get what they want.  We have to find a happy medium between our time and theirs and find out what works.  They can see how insincere we are and so we must ensure that our words match our actions.  We should open our hearts to love them whatever the circumstances, endeavoring to make an effort to understand them by finding opportunities to do things together and listening to them.  We should not judge them or criticize them but recognize their uniqueness.  We must not force on them our opinions and decisions but solicit their opinions as well.  We should be interested in their school work, their religious training, what they do during vacation and in their leisure time, their friends and relationships. Most importantly, be firm but accept their choices. Don’t put up with manipulative and bad behavior in order to show love and do not tolerate disrespect.  Set boundaries and apply consequences for bad behavior.

In all this our own behavior is also very important. We should be role models for our children to imitate.  We must set the parameters for discipline and be disciplined ourselves.  We should be firm and not be cowered by the outcome of our firmness.  We should not be in a position that our guilt will result in our overindulging our children.  We should do away with excesses in our life styles and set a good example for our children to follow.  We should teach our children to be hardworking, generous and responsible.  They should earn honestly, spend frugally and keep in mind others who do not have.

We, as parents should be united in our purpose for our family bearing in mind that family is about sacrifice and compromise.   It should be a relationship in which families recognize God as the head of the family and one  in which children are taught and encouraged to pray and be surrendered to the will of God.  We should also be dedicated to the purpose of bringing up our family in the eyes of God, recognizing that we have prayed to God for these children. We should persevere in our prayers for discernment in the purpose of each child.  If things go wrong, we must also remember that whatever happens all is not lost and God is within whatever is going on and all will turn out right in the end.

Our children are Gods work in progress and we must understand when to show our children tenderness and when to be tough.  Love is tough and we must practice it.  Parenting changes over the years. Our relationships over the different stages in our children’s lives will change accordingly. We must learn how to parent during the different stages of our children’s years.  

How can we be on the same team with them?  First of all, we must lean on God, Praying with them and for them. Whatever the circumstances, the centre of the family should be the lord.   Speak to your children about God.  If we want to lead people to God, we must be diligent in leading an exemplary life.  Our example must come first. Children need confidence.  As you guide them, show them what a grace based faith looks like by making your life attractive to imitate.

Good parenting influences a healthy parent child relationship. Take the good from your childhood and relationship with your parents and pass on and pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to breathe into your bad experiences that you are able to turn them into good. 

This morning, our prayer is that young parents with loving care, but without fussiness and anxiety, will deal tenderly and yet strongly with the lives of the children entrusted to them.  Parents whose children are growing up will be delivered from possessiveness and accept what cannot be changed or altered.  We will remember our youth and encourage independence of thought and action in our children.  For us who are growing old, we grandparents, we will not be interfering or expect a repetition of the methods of our earlier days but with humour and patience, wisdom and understanding, know when advice is needed and when we should be silent.  May we all realize how wonderfully blessed we are to have children to care for and have the opportunity to share in the work of God on earth.

 

Thank you once again and God bless you all

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