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  Children's Ministry Today    
 

Today's Featured Article

A Strong Family Is Better Than a Perfect Family
                  Judson Swihart

 

  I get a little edgy if prospective parents know exactly how they're going to raise their children.  Things always wind up dif­ferent from what you expected.

A friend of mine wanted to be The Perfect Parent, so he read all the books on child rearing and even wrote to a world-renowned psychologist for her ad­vice. The psychologist wrote back, "Read all the books, and when you're done, throw them away and do what you were going to do in the first place."

I thought that was good advice. You need to gather information, but you also need to be spontaneous. It's important to realize you need to grow as a parent, but you dare not forget that growth is a pro­cess.  

   If you're willing to see parenthood as a journey, and if you are open to growing through that journey with your children, then you're on your way to be­ing a good parent.

  No one is ever fully equipped to be The Perfect Parent. No one is ever quite ready for the journey ahead. You cannot predict everything that's going to occur; you are not going to be perfectly pre­pared. It is a little like marriage in this respect-you're never quite sure what you're going to encounter. You have to take a leap of faith, but part of the excite­ment of both marriage and parenthood is the adventure of the journey.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent; and though there are no perfect families, there are many strong families.

Some people used to think that good families occurred spontaneously, without any effort. Now we realize that strong families have to be built, and building them takes time and hard work. There are no shortcuts in the building process; there are no ways to save time. We hear talk about quality time rather than quan­tity time, but the truth is that to build a strong marriage or a strong family, both quality and quantity time must be involved. It's just not possible to build strong relationships without logging a lot of time together.

Research indicates many factors are involved in building a strong family. Good communication is an important factor. Families need to talk about some­thing deeper than the changing weather or the fact that the car needs washing. They need to talk about their feelings, their thoughts, their experiences, their ideas. Family members need to be able to express their appreciation to one an­other. If they exchange feelings and thoughts only about what's not right, they tend to get bogged down in the negatives, and that weakens relation­ships.

Commitment is a basic building block of strong families. We live in an era when people are primarily committed to them­selves. The focus is on self-fulfillment. But in a strong family, each individual is committed to each of the other family members as well as to the family unit itself. This requires setting priorities. Sometimes we have to give up some­thing we want to do for ourselves in order to do something that will enhance the well-being of another family member or the family as a whole.

In recent studies on family strengths, one characteristic of a strong family that keeps surfacing is deep religious commitment. Strong families have a sense of commitment to their faith; their religious beliefs have an impact on their lives and give them a sense of stability.

Another important characteristic is the ability to resolve crises, to deal with the kinds of intense pressure that all families must face at one time or another. In some families, crisis times pull relation­ships apart; in others, they tend to draw family members together. Strong fam­ilies are able to resolve crises because they are flexible enough to adapt to new situations.

  If you aim to have a perfect family, you will be sorely disappointed. But you can create a strong family where the members respect each other, are loyal to one another, and enjoy being together. For more information on strong families, read Dolores Curran's Traits of a Healthy Family, or Nick Stinnett's Building Family Strength, or George Reker's Family Building.

  
 
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