Putting strength back in family

April 23, 2014

“As our families crumble, so does our nation.”

Those words spoken during May National Day of Prayer services in Sampson County last year seem to be an echo that continues to reverberate some 12 months later as we read story after story, news account after news account about children being removed from homes where crimes are being committed, often in their presence; about children left alone and to their own devices for hours on end; about parents who abuse their children or abandon them; and the list goes on, seemingly with no end.

So we repeat those words again: “As our families crumble, so does our nation.”

Those words are a truth we must all take to heart and do something about, one by one, family by family until we have restored that which has been allowed for too long to fall apart.

In our search for answers to problems about our schools, crime, drug abuse, immorality, and myriad other ills, we need look no further than to what has happened to families. As they have been ripped apart, so has the moral fiber of our nation.

While strong families won’t prevent all crime from occurring, make geniuses out of every student, eliminate the drug problem or bring back a morality that seems lost forever, it can certainly strengthen that which has long been weakened by our far-too-busy, get-ahead worlds that have taken a front seat to the things which should and must matter most, starting with our children.

It may seem old-fashioned by most standards, but making family time a priority can and will make a difference. Sitting down to a meal together, offering a blessing over the meal, sharing the day’s events and actually talking to one another — without answering a phone, sending a text, checking an email or posting what we’ve had for dinner on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram — will have an impact.

So, too, will discipline. Often, today, parents are too quick to defend a child’s actions, thinking anyone but their children are responsible for whatever problem might arise. If a teen is caught driving drunk, it’s the officer’s fault for stopping them and the newspaper’s fault for publishing the account. If a student causes trouble at school, generally the finger is pointed toward the teacher or some other student.

Rather than owning up to mistakes, being punished for making that mistake and then being taught why it was a mistake in the first place, we all seem too busy trying to cover it up for fear it will make us, as parents or guardians, look bad.

It’s a matter of priorities.

Setting positive examples is yet another responsibility of parents and guardians. We can’t tell a child it’s wrong to do drugs when we are selling them to others or using them ourselves; we can’t tell a child it’s wrong to lie and then let them hear us offer a lie to someone else; we can’t admonish a child about the hazards of drinking and driving and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle after they’ve seen us have a mixed drink or two, smugly noting that we are fine.

We have to set the tone and then lay down expectations that insist our children follow them.

It’s sounds easy in theory, but we know in practice it is far harder, particularly in a world where families are far different than they were in the 1940s and 1950s. But whether a two-parent home or a single-parent one, whether rearing children that are really your grandchildren, nieces or nephews, the fact is we all must make a commitment to try to change the course we have set, one family at a time.

If we are to ever restore America to the place she belongs, it has to start with our families, and we must all do some soul-searching, realizing that we all have work to do. This isn’t someone else’s problem, it is everyone’s problem, and it will take everyone to turn it around.