BY JANETTE DAVIDSON
“The family is the ‘first and vital cell of society…
The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.”
– Excerpt from Homily of Pope John Paul II, Perth 30 November 1986
National Families Week 2012 will be held from Tuesday 15 May to Monday 21 May, coinciding with UN International Day of Families on 15 May and Mother’s Day on 13 May.
The central aim this year is to encourage us to take the time to reflect on the critical role that families play in teaching, supporting and nurturing children as they grow. This year’s theme is Families Make All the Difference - Helping Kids to Grow and Learn.
Families are the foundation for shaping children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. They give children a sense of belonging and of self-identity and provide a network of support for children as they grow.
It is within the family that children learn to walk, talk, love, live, share, wonder, fight, argue, learn and negotiate the experiences of family life. The relationships which are nurtured and developed within the family are those that equip each person to take his or her place in society.
Families Week speaks of the great need to support families, its chief aim is to highlight the vital contributions which families make to society; it is from the family that we gain our first sense of belonging and identity and gradually learn that we are uniquely valued and loved.
The family is also the primary place where faith and spiritual growth are nurtured. At home, the values we teach our children, the behaviours we want them to learn, the language we encourage them to use, can all be related to their faith - not in terms of "God is watching you so watch out” but in terms of “God loves you so much, this is what will help us all to grow in that love”.
Often when we talk of nurturing our children's faith we may think only of religion classes at school and celebrations at the parish (which are integral to the child’s faith development). So too however are those ordinary moments of family life.
Life experiences in family introduce children to a deeper understanding and appreciation of relationships first with others, with Jesus and with God in such a way that they can explore their own understandings and give expression to faith in ways that have meaning for them. We work in partnership with the parish and the school in nurturing the faith of our children.
Some of the ways you may find helpful to reflect on as opportunities for spiritual growth in everyday family life include:Creating an atmosphere of faith in the home that includes valuing each other's experiences of God in our daily lives e.g. enabling children to name ‘God moments’; Choosing paths of service that involve the gifts of the family; Using the family dinner time to catch up with one another; The ways in which outsiders are made welcome ; How crises are managed and resolved; Creating good memories of times spent together, times of fun, and also times of being listened to and of being treasured; Learning to pray as a family, creating patterns of prayer and ritual that the family undertakes together; Creating family traditions that each one can treasure; As parents trying to make our children understand that our faith can help us through hard times.
Tom McGrath in his book Raising Faith Filled Kids: Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home says: “Parents don't create faith. Faith comes from God, and God has placed the seed of faith in each child. Faith is a relationship like the relationship between a vine and its branches. Faith flows. Our main task is to encourage the flow and not block it”.
Families Week offers a special opportunity for families to reflect on, appreciate and celebrate (often in the midst of the joys and chaos of daily family life) the many graced and profound moments lived in the family.
It also provides an important opportunity for parishes and schools to affirm and celebrate the families in our communities in acknowledgement that of all the influences which shape children’s growth and development, family life plays the most crucial role.
– Janette Davidson is Diocesan Coordinator, Family Life Ministries