“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s lives.”
Richard Bach, American Author and Aviator
The definitions for “family” are many and varied, but the essence remains the same: Family is comprised of those individuals in our lives who provide unconditional love and respect to one another.
The Family may not be just having a Mother and Father, or of those other kindred related by blood, but may be a circle of close friends and companions who come into our lives on our Journey of life. Family is indeed comprised of those individuals who have unconditional love and friendship for one another; those who help us maintain our good mental health; and those of whom we are saddened when we are separated from them.
In today’s American society many children are being raised in unconventional and broken families; whether it be by a single parent brought on by death of a mate or divorce, a Foster Parent, extended family members…often left with making choices and decisions on their own regarding life’s essential values. Those choices that they make, whether they are good or bad, set the stage as to the direction they take on the path toward adulthood.
Parental figures in one’s life that provide good discipline and love are essential to our growth and development; paving the way for our life’s journey. Role models provide us with our values. Good role models teach virtuous behaviors…the difference between good and bad, truth and dishonesty, etc…. not to take things that do not belong to us, to respect others’ lives, not to cheat or lie, etc.
As all behaviors are learned, beginning at a very young age, it is essential that parental figures begin teaching values to their children as toddlers…not wait until they go beyond the age of reason to learn them on their own. Teaching virtuous behavior, good values, to our children is not the responsibility of the schools or other organizations and agencies in our communities; but the responsibility of the parents or other care-takers in the child’s life.
So often in counseling sessions, I would hear statements of excuse for one’s behaviors not due to their being persons with a mental or substance abuse diagnosis…”what do you expect, I was raised in a broken home!,” etc. There have been volumes written on those individuals that grew up to accept good values and behaviors despite their being raised in a dysfunctional family setting.
Life, my friends, is comprised of the choices we make; blame cannot be assigned to others for the choices we make. I remember as a child being told that “you are known by the company you keep…” a phrase that always stuck with me, as most of you know as well. Keeping “good company” means that we are choosing to accept virtuous behaviors over non-virtuous behaviors…we are choosing to do that which is right and honest.
Parents and parental figures in a child’s life very often forget this in contemporary society with the problems the child faces from day to day…drugs, violence, etc. Children must not only be taught what virtuous behaviors are, but also be taught the proper coping methods and techniques to live virtuous lives; they do not just begin doing so on their own.
Before children accept and develop virtuous behaviors, however, they must be taught with proper discipline about good behaviors. So often people tend to forget or disregard this. In communities, as well as our larger society, our children are often abused and neglected due to the choices that their significant adults make…the abuse of alcohol and other chemical substances, not obeying traffic signs, leaving children unattended in stores, stealing, etc. If the child learns that this is acceptable practice, then they may choose (and they often do) to follow a path of these behaviors.
Of the thousands of individuals I have counseled with, the vast majority of them were taught, and chose to, follow in the footsteps of their parents/significant adults in developing unhealthy attitudes about consuming ethanol beverages, the abuse of other substances, to disregard laws, etc; and to repeat the cycle with their own children.
On the flip side, I have been witness to extraordinary parenting by adults in our community: The mother protecting her child from harm by constantly watching and being there for the child, the parents not allowing their children to “run wild” in a store, the parents engaged in the responsible drinking of adult alcohol beverages, the parent giving good counsel and guidance to the child when they engage in bad behaviors, the parents giving praise to the child who exhibits good behaviors, the parents attending church services with their children, etc.
These are instances of learning and development for the child…so that they may learn to develop respect and love for their immediate and extended societal families.
Nowhere can the courage and perseverance of the family can be viewed as in the family who suffers from the burden of a family member with a disability. I have the deepest empathy of those families who are coping day to day with a family member with a disability…their courage and conviction is admirable. Despite the frustration and anxieties they experience on a daily basis they manage to persevere…to hold their family together.
Yes, my friends, family is the glue that holds the fabric of our society together. We need to keep up the emphasis on this. Until next time, Stay Healthy my Friends!