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Millennials’ Thoughts on World Congress of Families

In Abortion, Child Development, Choice, Education, Families, father, Free Speech, Freedom, Marriage, Media, Parenting, Religion, Sanctity of Life, The Family, UN, Values on November 13, 2015 at 11:07 am

Youth leadersBy Deborah Wene

The Ninth annual World Congress of Families was packed with people from all over the world who came together to talk about the importance of families, the threats that families are facing, and how to go about addressing those threats. In my opinion, it was more like a big family reunion than it was a conference because everyone came together, leaving their differences aside and focusing on that one thing that brings them together, the family. Every individual that participated in the conference, despite of their religion and cultural background, had one thing in common: Their love and passion for family and their belief in the natural family.

Not only was the conference for leaders and those with experience or background dealing with family threats, but it was also opened to scholars and to young adults ages 18-30  who were referred to as the Emerging Leaders. Those Emerging Leaders came to Salt Lake City from all over the world, including Panama, Guatemala, Kenya, and other places! They were given scholarships to come and learn not only about the World Congress of Families but how they as future leaders can make a difference in the world.

I had the opportunity to talk with many of those scholars about their experiences.

Stephanie Marie Steward, a student currently attending BYU-Idaho said,

“Sometimes, for me, it feels like I am in a losing battle. The fight for traditional marriage and families can seem discouraging, but the World Congress of Families IX gave me hope and a renewed motivation to stand up for what I believe in. There were many discussions about the forces that are attacking the family such as abortion and pornography and I believe knowledge is the first step toward action. I was very privileged to attend the conference. I feel that I am so much more prepared to fight for traditional marriage, family, and life. As a result of my attendance at this conference, I am sharing what I learned with others and it was great to see that there are people with beliefs similar to my own that are doing the same around the world.”

 Taeja Afalava, a scholar and Emerging Leader from the Pacific Islands shared her experience.

“The World Congress of Families was a life-changing event for me. My eyes were opened  and my heart was warmed with a fire that continues to grow as I recognize all that needs to be done to protect my family and to stand with God in protecting His family.

Being together as a massive group from all over the world has been an empowering experience. There were specific presentations geared toward Emerging Leaders.They gave me confidence to know that I can and  must do something. A friend of mine has an organization called Represent and their motto sums up how I feel about this work, “Honor our ancestors. Defend our descendants.” A passion has built up amongst the Emerging Leaders who attended World Congress of Families IX last week. It is my prayer that this passion alongside God’s power, be spread like a wildfire around the world; and because of the purpose behind that prayer, may faith carry our actions every step of the way.”

Afalava is planning to work and study these important issues as she prepares to attend some of the conferences at the United Nations next year.

Some of the scholars admit that the conference was more instructive and more educational  than they expected. One in particular, Krystina Giles, stated,

“My experience at World Congress of Families was a dream come true. It was great to be around people who have a similar point of view and who also see how sacred the family is in our society. The words spoken and the data given helped me better understand my experience as a child. My father was not a part of my childhood.  I had personally felt the negative effects the data represented. There were so many times during the Plenary panels that I teared up due to what the speakers were saying. Their warnings hit home, because I had lived them.  Many times during the conference I had the distinct feeling that the purpose of this conference is to save the family. The family is the backbone of society and if that crumbles, then what will follow after that? This World Congress of Families and the Advocates that presented made me want to be on the frontlines and make a difference to protect the sanctity of the family”.

These are just few of the many scholars and future leaders I was able to interview! These scholars have hope in the future and standing of the family. I stand with them on these and I hope to be able to get out of my comfort zone and do something about what I learned.

 

 

Trying to Replace the Basic Unit

In Child Development, Drug Use, Families, father, Grandparents, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, Research, The Family, Values on November 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

family working

Tashica Jacobson

Basic, while typically thought of as simple or easy, it is the most crucial to an outcome. For example basic math, which is elementary material is what makes up our ability to solve calculous and trigonometry problems. Replacing that basic understanding with something else will never contribute to the solving of a more complex equation no matter how much effort is invested. The same is true for society, if we don’t promote the basic unit then the harder societal issues will never be solved.

For centuries the nuclear family unit has been considered the basic unit of society. This idea remained unquestioned on a large scale until a few decades ago. Now alternatives have started to arise promising the same results even though they spring from dramatically different roots. Society has tried to replace the family with many different things including the individual and the workplace, all of which fail to produce the same benefits in quantity and quality as the traditional nuclear family does.

The family—and not the individual person—which is the basic building block of the community and thus of society as a whole … without the cohesion of the family, there can be no lasting community, and without a lasting community, there cannot be a greater society, to say nothing of civilization itself.”

Some of the problems that we are facing as a society include: abuse, drug use, delinquent behaviors, poverty, crime, and poor school performance (at all levels). But social science research continue to show that the family is at the core of reducing these. While there are other contributors to decreasing the prevalence of these in our society the family is at the foundation and is able to produce the best results in the least costly way.

One advantage that the family has over these others is that it is multigenerational. A child becomes a husband, parent, then grandparent, and through all these stages has the support and vison of what came before as well as what he is creating. The bedrock of strong family values and a good support system is generally transferred through generations.

Likewise neglect of the family and the negative consequences that spring from that are also transferred though the years. Poverty and especially multigenerational poverty which is especially hard to break out of is also a cycle of broken families. When the family is neglected there is need for greater government involvement. As families break apart government intervenes in personal family issues with court cases and foster care. Children from intact families are less likely to abuse drugs and commit crime, leading to a better overall community.

So let’s get back to the basics and stop looking for an alternative solution when the solution that we have already works. Strong families are crucial for society to continue to produce competent productive individuals. While other sources are beneficial and need to be used in coordination with promoting families they will never replace the family.

War or Peace?-Resolving Family Conflict on the Front Lines

In Child Development, Choice, Families, father, Free Speech, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, The Family, Values on November 10, 2015 at 7:44 am

conflict resolutionby Christie Masters

There is something serendipitous about the household being in a bit of turmoil when writing an article on conflict resolution. Peacemaking is constantly being discussed. When I asked my twelve year-old what she thought was the best way to resolve an argument, her answer surprised me. “You have to get to the bottom of the problem.” She then went on to say that the answer also depends on the kind of conflict there is. There are those silly arguments where we need to just stop fighting and move on with our day. But there are deeper conflicts, where opinions reign, feelings are hurt, and it becomes necessary to negotiate on another level. But how does one “get to the bottom of the problem” and bridge the void caused by conflict between family members? It was instructive and rewarding to listen to others share what they felt worked best in keeping the peace, and the following advice reveals priceless lessons learned through battles they have fought.

The Heart of the Matter:

As a friend and mentor taught for many years, “getting to the bottom of the problem” with our children can reveal underlying issues of the heart. Heart issues can stem from pride or stubbornness, a lack of understanding, honesty, or kindness in a conflict. Resolving the needs of the heart far outweigh winning or losing an argument. How often though, as a parent, it has been my heart that needed changing as the source of conflict was revealed. True resolution comes not only from understanding the causes of conflict, but also from real restoration between family members. Asking for forgiveness when we are wrong builds trust, and showing grace to one another strengthens bonds.

The Intent to Understand:

There was a consensus among the children in our family about resolving conflict: Those involved in an argument need to be honest about what they think and feel. Letting someone speak their piece without interruption makes them feel like they are being heard, and therefore less defensive. As our dear friend Evie confirmed, we must “listen to the other person before [we] say anything. Get their perspective, perception and intent. Ask questions with the intent to understand.” How wonderful it is to be understood, and likewise to seek to understand others-this requires patience, sometimes long conversations, but is well worth the effort.

Pursue One Another:

My cousin, married for over 34 years, shared that “Physical touch [is] the first thing that goes out the window when a marriage struggles. It is difficult to say hurtful things to someone you are touching. Sit facing each other, knees touching, and holding hands when you discuss those difficult issues.” Separating ourselves from those that we are upset with is sometimes easier, but problems do not get solved when we are distant from one another.   Mutual commitment and resolve to stay in active communication is hard work. Reaching out and taking our spouse by the hand may be the last thing we want to do when we are angry or our feelings are hurt. But even hardened hearts can soften under such a loving and humbling gesture.

Love Communicates:

     “Our voices kept raising and as we got louder and angrier he looked at me square in the eyes and said, “no matter how angry we get, I love you.” He said it loud and clear and it stopped me in my tracks. Love communicates.” As another dear friend who has been married many years shares, ‘love anchors us even in the midst of disagreements.’ Its affirmation not only gives us hope that resolution is possible, it dispels doubts and communicates what is most important-even in the heat of battle. Withholding love accomplishes just the opposite; communication breaks down, division grows, and family members can become withdrawn and fearful of confrontation.

Our Goal is Peace:

Though conflicts within a family are inevitable, to be at peace with one another is our goal and constant pursuit. Often, that which is worthy is also difficult, but take heart-Those who have weathered difficult times in their relationships, and have come through with wisdom and strength, are a wonderful example and encouragement to us.

 

 

 

 

Hope for the family amid anti-family hate

In Education, Families, father, Feminism, Free Speech, Freedom, Gender Identity, Grassroots, Homosexuality, Human Rights, Marriage, Media, motherhood, Parenting, Religion, Religious Freedom, Religious rights, Same-Sex Marriage, Sanctity of Life, Sexual Orientation, The Family, Values, Women's Rights on November 3, 2015 at 6:41 am

baby-boy-mom-dadby Mekelle Tenney

Last week my husband and I attended the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City Utah. It was the 9th Congress held since the organizations founding in 1997. With over 3300 in attendance the Congress is the largest pro-family gathering in the world. World Congress of Families is dedicated to the promotion of the natural family. That means that they support marriage between a man and a woman, they are pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-children. The conference was four days of speakers and workshops. The presenters came from all over the world and talked on topics like the importance of marriage, morals and ethics in education, abortion, sex education, child development, and advocating for the family. All the presenters did a fantastic job and my husband and I came away from the conference with a deeper understanding of the current state of the family as well as a greater desire to fight for the family.

The congress received a lot of media attention, some good and some bad. After the first day of the Congress I began to scroll through some of the stories that had been published and came across one from the Daily Beast entitled “Queer Spy at the Anti-Gay Conference”. Considering the nature of the publication I should have ignored the story entirely but we had been enjoying the conference so much and I was upset by the author’s attitude so I opened the article and began to read.

“The registration table at the World Congress of Families conference looks like a church lady convention. Greeting newcomers and carefully distributing name badges and swag is a small army of smiling middle-aged women, all decked out in matching orange polo shirts and varying degrees of frazzled enthusiasm. Their hairstyles and footwear scream “sensible,” and I get the impression that if given enough time, any one of them would eagerly regale me with stories of their kids/grandkids, offer a remedy for stubborn stains, and jot down their favorite casserole recipe.”

The article went on to ridicule the Mormon moms in attendance (though when he used the phrase Mormon mom it was more a stab at all mothers). He noted the “notorious anti-LGBTQ” legislation that the members of the congress had been instrumental in passing. He used phrases like “Christian right global medaling”. And stated that the Congress had disseminated a “US born culture war that’s wreaking havoc on women and queer folks all around the world.” In case you are wondering the term queer refers to “sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual or cisgender.”

Naturally my first reaction to this article was anger. I told my husband that the writer was nothing more than a hypocritical jerk who began his article about a conference that was anti-women by making fun of women! Fortunately my husband was the only one to hear this rash reaction. One of the biggest lessons that I learned from the conference was the importance of reacting with love……a phrase I have a hard time with because it gives me the impression of hippies sitting around smoking pot and spouting off bumper sticker sayings such as “all you need is love”. But what I have come to realize is that my reactions reflect directly on the family and the pro-family movement. My actions and comments should never be such in nature that they can be used against the very cause I am trying to defend. Responding with love is in fact one of our most powerful weapons. It sets the tone for the whole movement and will be one of the reasons that the family succeeds. My experience at the conference taught me that.

My husband and I brought our four month old daughter to the conference with us. Before attending we had been worried that our baby would not be welcomed or permitted at the conference. Generally young children are not allowed at conferences because they are loud and disruptive. The situation proved to be just the opposite. I have never been at a place where children were more welcome. Everywhere we went with her we were met with smiles. So many people would stop to tell us how excited they were to see her there, how much fun children are, and how much joy they bring, that it took us twice as long to get anywhere. People from all around the world greeted us and congratulated us on our beautiful daughter. Of the whole conference that had the greatest effect on me. I realized that despite great obstacles the family will succeed. Because as it turns out the “queer spy” was right. The pro-family movement is fueled by an army of happy and enthusiastic individuals. Whose dedication to their families will motivate them to persistently, courageously, and lovingly fight for and defend the family.

Feeling small? Getting involved Can have a BIG impact!

In Abortion, Child Development, Choice, Divorce, Education, Euthanasia, Families, father, Feminism, Free Speech, Freedom, Gender Identity, Human Rights, Marriage, Media, motherhood, Parenting, Religious Freedom, Same-Sex Marriage, Sanctity of Life, Sexual Orientation, The Family, Values on November 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm

WCF9by Erin Weist

The World Congress of Families was held in Salt Lake City last week.  Amid mild protests from pro-LGBT groups, over 3,000 attendees from around the world gathered to support pro-family speech and activism.  Rather than being “anti-LGBT” the conference focused on what has been dubbed the “natural family” or the traditional family.  It seems impossible that any sane person would be “anti-family” but that seems to be the way the world is going.  The groups in attendance at this conference, rather than promote a hateful agenda that strips rights from others, focus on supporting public policy that places the traditional family (a father, mother, and children) at the forefront as the highest possible standard for society.  

Topics for the conference included parenting guides, marriage guides, self-empowerment & the worth of the individual, education regarding the dangers of pornography, support for groups intent on ending sex trafficking around the world, homeschooling, educational ethics, scientific studies behind the pro-life movement, and more.  Most encouraging was the opportunity to be surrounded by people who are not only emotionally invested in very similar ideals & goals, but also going out into their communities to do something about it!  People are looking for the good and doing good in their own part of the world.  

One of the great aspects of this conference was the Emerging Leaders Program.  This inspired program invited young adults (mostly university age) from around the world to attend the conference and go back to their respective countries as leaders in creating positive change.  I met delegates from many countries throughout Asia, Europe, South America and more.  These young men & women have a desire to be the change that they want to see and it was inspiring.  I feel so small but I learned from this conference that even one person can make a difference.  Just by getting involved with a group or talking to neighbors about promoting an ideal or writing letters an individual moment of action becomes coupled with other moments of action and it can turn into a movement.  Or it can create a positive change in one person’s life and those actions are extremely valuable for that one person.  Remember the story about the starfish?  A man wandered along the beach throwing starfish into the ocean when he was stopped by another man who questioned the futility of his actions because of the unending number of starfish…how could he possibly make a difference?  As the man threw another starfish back in the ocean he stated, “I made a difference to that one.”

This conference was tiny compared to the population of the world.  It may seem impossible to make a difference.  But being surrounded by like-minded people working for positive change showed me that it is possible.  There are thousands in my community, there are thousands in many communities all over the world who are dedicated to families.  We are not out to promote hate.  We are not out to trample on rights.  We are out to educate, to promote an ideal, one that places societal values over individual indulgence, one that teaches people how to be happier!  And we can do that one starfish at a time.

Give me Life

In Abortion, Child Development, Choice, Families, father, Freedom, Grandparents, Health Care, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, Sanctity of Life, The Family, Values on October 30, 2015 at 12:31 pm

abortion hands heldby Brittany Stohlton

Our day-to-day actions are preceded by choices, and those choice-based actions are always followed by consequences. Each day in the news there are reports of child abuse, abandonment and death. When the life of a child is at stake, parents, doctors and child experts do everything in their power to protect and improve that child’s life. A tragic irony is the acceptance of a woman’s choice to abort her child simply because she is “not ready to be a parent,” her finances are unstable, or one of the worst excuses yet, as a method of birth control.[1] We must ask ourselves if those reasons or justifications take precedence over saving the lives of innocent children.

Losing a Child

After giving birth one year ago to my son, Adam, holding him in my arms for the first time was one of the most magical experiences of my life. He was small, having been born 3 weeks early—but absolutely perfect! As I have watched him grow and develop, I am in awe as to how much I love him. Because my husband and I have experienced such joy from having this little boy in our lives, we wanted to add another child to our family.

When my most recent pregnancy test came out positive, I was so excited, and came up with a brilliant way to announce the good news to family and friends. I didn’t even tell my husband about the pregnancy, because I wanted it to be a big surprise for him as well. The day before the announcement, I awoke at 1 a.m. to some spontaneous bleeding and pain that swept through my entire body. My husband awoke, sensing that something was wrong. Thoughts raced through my mind, “Things weren’t supposed to happen this way. It was going to be such a great surprise…how could this be happening?”

I saw the look of confusion on my husband’s face as I told him I was pregnant but feared I was losing the baby. The blood continued for a while, then slowed. I tossed and turned the rest of the night, hoping and praying that my unborn child would be okay. Later that morning I was able to schedule an appointment to see the doctor for that afternoon. My anxiety mounted throughout the day only to have my worst fears confirmed: my precious unborn child was dead, and there was nothing that I could do, or could have done, to stop it. The heartache, pain, and grief that I felt held me back from finding joy in day-to-day activity. Not only are the thoughts and emotions that I have felt enough to rip my soul apart, but the physical pain has been nearly unbearable. Knowing and feeling each contraction of pain, and thinking about how I had lost that child, was a constant reminder of just how miserable things were.

Seeking support in a time of crisis is exactly what my husband and I needed to do. We contacted our parents and explained the situation to each of them. When they heard that we were expecting a child, the levels of excitement were heightened; however, the excitement turned into despair as they heard of the loss. We found comfort in knowing that each of us has a distinct purpose in life. Indeed, each child that is conceived has a purpose and should not be created or aborted by emotional, unprepared individuals.

As we shared the grief as a family, we couldn’t understand how any woman could choose to kill and dismember their unborn child, literally destroying a developing and functioning person—one that could bring joy and happiness.

Miscarriage vs Abortion

In our quest as a family to come to terms with the disaster that had just taken place we wanted to know what separated a miscarriage from an abortion. We came to understand that the difference between miscarriage and abortion is choice. In a miscarriage the mother does not have control over the situation. The body, in most cases, begins to naturally break down and expel the tissue of the fetus. The mother, therefore, is not choosing to end the child’s life. In the case of abortion, however, the mother has chosen to end the life of the child, undergoing an extensive medical procedure in which the doctor begins labor and delivers the baby piece by piece.[2]

As we understood the difference between a miscarriage and abortion, we could still not come to terms with why people could do such a thing. On that note we began to seek out how frequently this procedure took place and how it affects a woman’s well-being. In our research we found that on an annual basis, 1.2 million American women choose to have their pregnancy terminated. This generally takes place within the first trimester, between weeks nine and twelve—the very weeks in which I miscarried my child.[3] Not only is the life of the fetus terminated, but the mother is at an increased rate of death both during, and after, the procedure. The World Health Organization estimates that, worldwide, 68,000 women die per year from complications from “unsafe” abortions.[4]

The psychological distress that I have felt upon miscarrying a child is within the norm for those who have experienced miscarriage. Would these feelings of distress also be present with those who have had an abortion? Looking at the population of women that have had abortions, we found that they were seven times more likely to commit suicide than women who had given birth. A survey revealed that 28.2 percent of post-abortive women had attempted suicide, and nearly half of those had attempted suicide two or more times. [5]

As disturbing as the truth may be, it is the reality in which we live. For those considering abortion, seek support from professionals and understand that the choices and actions you make affect more than just you as an individual. For the unborn children that were taken from this world because of the selfish entitlement of abortion, we feel heartache, pain, and grief to know that you never entered this world. You are wanted and you are loved. It is with deep regret that we will miss out on what you could have been. There will never be a moment that I forget about the child I lost. I wish more than anything that I could have held, or even just heard the heartbeat of my unborn baby.

[1] Abortion-Reasons Why Women Choose Abortion. (2005). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/abortion-reasons-women-choose-abortion

[2] Abortion Risks and Procedures. (2003). Retrieved June 9, 2015, from http://www.midlandlifecenter.org/abortion-risksprocedures

[3] Pending Abortion, Unplanned/Crisis Pregnancy or Possible Pregnancy Information. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.afterabortion.com/crisis.html

[4] “Unsafe Abortion.” Global and regional estimates of the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality in 2000. World Health Organization. (2004). http://unitedfamilies.org/downloads/Abortion_GuidetoFamilyIssues.pdf

[5] Durband, D. (2007). Abortion Deaths: Facts/Research. Guide to Family Issues, 36-37. http://unitedfamilies.org/downloads/Abortion_GuidetoFamilyIssues.pdf

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Brittany Stohlton is a family and child advocate and has been advocating since 2011. Brittany graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves being a wife and mother of two.

An Egalitarian Marriage, with Mom Staying at Home?

In Child Development, Choice, Families, Family Planning, father, Feminism, Gender Identity, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, stay-at-home mom, The Family, Values, working mothers on October 29, 2015 at 5:25 pm

husband helping wifeby Teralynn Nordgren

If any of you are fans of J.R. Tolkien, then you are likely familiar with The Hobbit. My husband loves The Hobbit – the book and the movies. While I am not as avid a fan as he is, I have seen the movies, and there is a quote in one of the films that I think about often. It is Thorin Oakensheilds’ last words: “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” That is a powerful statement.

One reason that quote has been on my mind is because my husband and I recently decided that I should take a hiatus from work so that I could focus more on raising our kids. I was anxious about quitting work. Without work being handed to me by an employer, I realized I would need to put more thought and planning into keeping up my professional skills. There would also be less adult interaction for me, and of course, less money for us. My biggest worry, though, was that my relationship with my husband would no longer be as egalitarian as it had been before; I was afraid I would lose respect for myself and eventually respect from my husband, as has been the experience of other women.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized there really shouldn’t be any loss of respect. Our real joint-venture as a couple is not making money, but raising our family. Making money, although important, is only one part of that bigger picture, and although I am no longer bringing home any bacon, I am still putting a lot of time and effort into our family.

Of course our children need food, clothes, and shelter. We are fortunate enough that we can pay for those things with one income. But kids also need time from adults to build attachment and trust, and to get the help and guidance they need to develop into happy, functional adults. I’m providing that. The roles are different, but both are necessary.

Because egalitarian marriage is seen as a push from Feminists, people tend to think of an egalitarian marriage as one where both partners focus on their careers. This is probably what I would have thought as well, before I had children. Since I have experienced how very consuming parenting can be, however, my view of what it means to have an egalitarian marriage has changed. After all, why is money often valued so much more than sanity and happiness? It’s not that my husband is working to support me and I’m staying home for me, or for him. I could support myself just fine if we didn’t have kids. Likewise, he would have no trouble getting his own laundry done if he didn’t want to spend time building a relationship with our children. So really, we’re both doing what we do for the kids and the family, not to prove we’re better or to gain authority over each other.

Robin Rhine, a christian author online, writes that an egalitarian marriage “means that wives are considered equal partners with their husbands, capable of making decisions, collaborating, and using their God-given talents and gifting”. She writes further: “Egalitarian marriage is not the neglect of the household or parenting. It is the stance that both mothers and fathers are necessary in the lives of their children and that both parents are responsible for their home.” Her description of egalitarian marriage is focused on family, not on careers.

Of course, if one partner stays at home, that means he or she can’t constantly nag the bread-winner for not making enough money either. Money becomes a means to an end (rather than an end itself) and it needs to be managed appropriately. Therefore, part of keeping things egalitarian means both partners agree on a financial plan based on the family’s present income and they stick to it. If there simply isn’t enough money to support the family, or if one partner feels they “just can’t live that way”, then it’s back to the drawing board. While the idea is to keep the family in mind as a whole, don’t forget that Mom and Dad are part of the family too, so if one of the parents is unhappy with the arrangement, they need to speak up. Whatever the financial arrangement, keeping the focus on building a home gives couples the flexibility to do what they truly think is best for each other and for the family as a whole, without fear that the marriage will become a hierarchy.

This kind of perspective could alleviate a lot of stress in families where both parents have been working long hours for a career that they think will help them feel equal to their partners. Many of us start our families thinking it will be no problem for both parents to work and still have ample time to take care of house, home and family relationships. Maybe that is in part because we grew up with shows like the now-controversial Cosby Show. My husband and I used to watch re-runs of the Cosby Show before we started having children. In the show, he’s a doctor and she’s a lawyer. They were both very successful at their jobs, and it seems like at least one of them is always home with the kids. There is no undue amount of stress, and everyone in the family likes each other. Oh, and the house is always clean! Did they have a housekeeper? I never saw one in the show. After our first son was born, though, we asked, “How on earth do they have so much time at home with their kids?” We decided that the show was an artful Hollywood depiction that ignores the stress, time-constraints, and fatigue that would come with the Cosby’s lifestyle in the real world.

The real world isn’t ideal, and this often means that having one parent stay home isn’t even possible.  There really are a lot of factors that determine what is best for each family. For many out there, the working-dad, stay-at-home-mom arrangement probably is the best fit. Whatever your division of labor, if you are worried about slipping into a hierarchical marriage pattern, maybe you could try measuring equality with family needs and happiness at the center. That way it would be possible to maintain equality no matter what arrangement you agree upon. As I said before, I’m a stay-at-home mom, and this is the perspective we’re adopting. So far I like it, and it all seems so much more sane, even “merry”, as Thorin might say.

Are You Available?

In Child Development, Choice, Families, father, Grandparents, Marriage, Media, Parenting, Technology, The Family, Values on October 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm

family with iphonesBy Patrick Williams

Are we overly-available to the rest of the world?  Think for a moment.  How hard is it for someone to get a hold of you?  How quick are you to drop everything to respond to a text or check on an update someone sends to you through one of your social media apps?  How often does this change or affect what you are doing?  What about the other many forms of media we use each day?  Is your day a waste if you don’t get some quality time with your media?  Are we using these things to our best interest or to our detriment?  I would suggest that perhaps we focus a lot on the benefits of new technologies while sometimes forgetting to weigh the cost.

Now I will ask a different question.  When was the last time you went out with your family for the day, leaving technology out of the picture?

Observe Georges Seurat’s popular painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Afternoon in park

What a beautiful painting!  I wish every day were like this!  How would you feel about this masterpiece if everyone in it were looking down at tablets and smartphones?  For me, that would drain the delight from my experience in viewing it.

When was the last time that that you considered time spent with others as “quality” time?  How important is it to you to get that new high score?  How important is it to know what everyone is doing all the time and to have them recognize daily your existence through the social media?  Are your children, friends, and family learning that more important to you is the need to connect to the world at large, rather than to strengthen personal bonds with them?  If you want an existence then go exist somewhere other than digital space.  I challenge anyone who reads this to put down the technology and look up more often.  Step outside.  Go for a walk.  Play with your kids.  Technology is a tool, not a life.

 

The Home–building competence and character

In Child Development, Choice, Education, Families, father, Marriage, Parenting, Schools, The Family, Values on October 22, 2015 at 7:19 am

family dinner 2by Tashica Jacobson

Studies, opinions, social science, commonly known facts, and psychology have all shown and continue to show that the single most influential factor in an individual’s life is the family structure that they grew up in. It affects their behavior, education, career choices, relationships, religious values, and eventually the formation of their own family, which will in turn effect all areas of their own children’s lives. Thus we see the importance of the family structure, and the safety that comes from establishing a good home for children and parents.

A genogram is a device, much like a family tree, that can be used to show this multigenerational effect of family and home life. It allows individuals to identify behavior patterns which get past from generation to generation. These trends can be beneficial, harmful, or neutral, but once established it is only through conscious effort or a large shift that they are broken. Genograms show the importance of creating a good home environment, because the patterns of interaction will lead to lifelong patterns.

Our family of origin is so important because it is the first social group which we are part of. From our parents and siblings we learn how to interact with others. It is the purpose of this social institution to provide an environment where individuals can feel safe. Daily life provides its fair share of misfortunes and stresses. Home should be a refuge from these things, a place where individuals can be themselves and grow up happy, even if things aren’t always ideal.

The goal of the home is to create safety for husbands, wives, sisters, and bothers. It should be a relief from the daily hassles of work and school. It should be a place children can complain about school and feel vulnerable when they don’t understand their math assignment, but also know they will receive the help they need even if it takes all night. It should allow parents to come home from a hectic work day and have a meal with people they love even if they have to help prepare it.

I view the goal of parenting as teaching children to get along on their own. This home that we need to establish allows the optimal teaching environment where children, parents, and spouses can make mistakes but work through them together and learn from them, and in the end still be good friends.

It seems crazy that one environment can accomplish all this, but that is why Urie Bronfenbrenner said, “The family is the most powerful, the most humane, and by far the most economical system known for building competence and character (1986)” And since this one structure plays such a tremendous role in determining what will happens in life is vital that we promote, encourage, and work towards creating good homes which will set the foundation upon which individuals lives will grow.

 

Contention Begins With Me

In Child Development, Choice, Domestic Violence, Families, father, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, The Family, Values, Violence on October 14, 2015 at 1:38 pm

blame gameby Rachel Mallory

Remember that sweet song most of us learned when we were young that stated “Kindness Begins with Me”? Well, through lots of personal experience, I’ve learned that the opposite is also true. Contention also begins with me, even when it doesn’t. Realizing this has brought me great inner peace. Hear me out on this one.

After raising four daughters and being somewhat of a control freak, I have come to learn the hard way, that  “my way or the highway” is not always a great strategy. I have come to realize that my reaction to disagreements is often the catalyst to love or hurt. “The mother sets the tone of the house” was never so true as at our house.

All of us experience contention and often on a daily basis. It’s part of life and it’s part of living in families and communities. No two of us are exactly the same so we react differently to contentious situations.  It’s been amazing to me to watch our four girls who were all raised in the same home with the same standards, ok… true confession … we were way more strict with the older ones….tired and more lax as the last two came along! Then as they got married and started their own families, dynamics seemed to change. And without my permission, darn it! Just kidding, but without honest communication, the unsolicited change in family dynamics and individual roles can be stressful for all.

Not only in families, but in the work place, church groups, friends, and even with total strangers in the parking lot and/or on the road. So knowing that “life happens” and that it’s inevitable, how can we, individually, control our reactions?
I’m sure you have noticed as well as I that we live in a society of victimhood. It’s never our fault- always someone else’s. Many are given a pass to blame others for their misfortunes and failures. Hardly anyone is held accountable. How does contention happen? “It takes two to Tango” comes to mind. (I’m full of trite phrases today!)

There cannot be contention unless two people choose to engage. Yes, I said choose. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about here. Think about the last time someone was contentious with you. Doesn’t matter the situation. Immediately walls go up, old hurts begin to surface, we all get defensive and attempt to shield ourselves from getting hurt. Playing the “poor me” or repeating the “yea but” games only add fuel. How about we try something else?  How about trying this? See if it works for you.

Next time you’re absolutely certain that you’re right and the other person is an insensitive, blathering, blah, blah, blah, take a piece of paper and write your thoughts down. “This person makes me so mad because….” Don’t sugarcoat it and be as mean as you can. Even include the “she/he definitely should/shouldn’t…”
Then ask yourself if what you’ve written is absolutely true or not. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll often come to the conclusion that much of your angst is merely a story you’ve concocted in your head. We play the “what if” game masterfully until we work ourselves into a frenzy.

For example, my husband travels periodically and I’m home alone which I really don’t mind. I can stay up and sew or read or whatever as late as I want. One night when he was away, I watched a stupid scary movie. The rest of the night I was nearly paralyzed with fear that an ax murderer would break in and hack me into small pieces. What changed from last night to tonight?? My thoughts! That’s it! Or… Someone texts me and says one word only. “Sure.”  What does that mean?? I can’t quite decipher. I begin to think, “she’s mad at me” or “she’s trying to ignore me” “they’re kicking me out of the group and this is her way of letting me down easy.” See how our minds go crazy when we’re in a contentious state?

I’m not a professional counselor or psychoanalyst but what if we just continually chose to “not sweat the small stuff.” Choose to chill in a sense. Look at others as people rather than objects and treat them with kindness instead of malice. The few times I’ve done this, it’s made my life happier, and way less complicated. Me and my thoughts are the only things I have total control over.

Please do not think I am diminishing the devastating effects of physical and mental abuse. Those can be life-threatening situations that definitely need professional help. But even in those terrible seemingly unscalable situations we can somewhat control our reactions. Difficult? Yes, but if it could bring you some peace, wouldn’t it be worth it? The goal here is not to change the adversary, but to calm you’re heart and mind.

Remember, contention can only fester if both parties participate. Choose not to. Be sincerely kind and forgiving. Don’t give in to your crazy thoughts. Be kind to you for a change.

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