Thursday, 15 May 2008


"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." - Theodore M. Hesburgh

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that the 15th of May of every year shall be observed as the International Day of Families. This Day highlights many of the family values that form a part of social moral values. The observance recognises the importance of the family as the basic unit of society. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and can become a powerful mobilising factor on behalf of families in all countries, allowing them to lobby for the protection and support of family issues appropriate to each society.

Families nowadays are finding greater challenges and more obstacles to raising children to be healthy, responsible, productive adults. Economic hardship, increasingly hectic activity, tight schedules, domestic discord, divorce, absentee fathers, changing attitudes about what is right and wrong, some popular music and entertainment, influences of street life – all these and other stressors do little to promote healthy families. Children that are growing up in modern urban societies have more needs for a stable family in order to grow up healthy and happy.

The Families Day theme for 2008 focusses on “Fathers and Families: Responsibilities and Challenges.” Family structure in our society is in a process of change and this is evidenced by the increasing numbers of “non-traditional” families – single-parent families, same-sex couple families, families where both partners have been previously married and each may bring into the family children from previous relationships, families that rely heavily on the input from all sorts of external support structures. The role of fathers is changing, especially now when IVF has made the biological role of the father almost redundant - the patriarchal role of the father as catalyst for the creation of a family has been eclipsed by technology. The social role of the father, however, has become an increasingly important one.

Research has shown that children with fathers who are actively involved in their lives are more likely to stay out of trouble and become successful adults than those with absent or uninvolved fathers. Responsible fathers make a big difference. The timely 2008 Families Day theme invites individuals, families, communities and governmental policy makers to reflect, pray and act to facilitate healthy families and responsible fatherhood.

The focus on responsibility is a timely one and it is important for us to redefine it. Traditionally, the father has been considered to be the one who is the “provider”, the one who spends most time away from the home, the one who is perhaps the most uninvolved in the upbringing of the children. We still speak of “mother’s love”, “mother tongue”, “mother’s milk”, “mother hen”, etc all denoting a very close and special nurturing relationship. As society is changing, so are the family relationships and increasingly, more fathers are spending more time with their children and are more actively involved with their upbringing – some to the extent of being “house-husbands” while the wife is the “provider”.

In other cases, we find that increasingly permissive social mores, greater emphasis on individual liberties, greater sexual openness and increasing acceptance of personal interests being more important than the interests of the group (family or larger social group), are causing a greater likelihood of fathers to abandon families and pursue their own personal goals: A younger woman, another man, another career in a distant place away from the family, etc.

The greatest and most despicable of irresponsibilities is the loss of respect for the normal restrictions that are placed within the family group: The father who commits violent or sexual crimes in the family. The recent events in Austria and the heinous Josef Fritzl are only the tip of the iceberg. How many more of these crimes are reported almost daily, and unfortunately how many more go unreported, undiscovered… It is fathers such as Josef Fritzl that often have been brought up in dysfunctional families and pass on that terrible legacy to their own family.

How to deal with it in this increasingly precarious urban society that seems to be a major stressor on wholesome family living? The qualities of love, laughter, listening and learning within a family are the key factors in its happiness and success. These four values are the foundation of any happy, healthy family and by extension society. The family is the most basic and important unit of any society or nation. Without healthy, functioning families, a culture cannot survive.
Have a good Family Day, whatever your family is.

family |ˈfam(ə)lē| noun ( pl. -lies)
1 [treated as sing. or pl. ] a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
• a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage : friends and family can provide support.
• the children of a person or couple : she has the sole responsibility for a large family.
• a person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy : I could not turn him away, for he was family.
• a group of people united in criminal activity.
Biology a principal taxonomic category that ranks above genus and below order, usually ending in -idae (in zoology) or -aceae (in botany).
• a group of objects united by a significant shared characteristic.
Mathematics a group of curves or surfaces obtained by varying the value of a constant in the equation generating them.
2 all the descendants of a common ancestor : the house has been owned by the same family for 300 years.
• a race or group of peoples from a common stock.
• all the languages ultimately derived from a particular early language, regarded as a group : the Austronesian language family.
adjective [ attrib. ]
designed to be suitable for children as well as adults : a family newspaper.
the (or one's) family jewels informal a man's genitals.
in the family way informal pregnant.
ORIGIN late Middle English (sense 2; also denoting the servants of a household or the retinue of a nobleman) : from Latin familia ‘household servants, household, family,’ from famulus ‘servant.’

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