Why do families fail? What makes teenagers get involved in drugs, illicit sex and other life-wrecking situations? Here are THREE important ways to prevent such a tragedy from occurring in YOUR home.
THE MOTHER sat looking out her front window. It was late at night and the neighborhood was quiet. There hadn't been any activity on the street for some time. Yet the mother sat straining her eyes and ears, looking and listening for the familiar sounds of her three children returning home. As she sat, occasionally dabbing at her tear-filled eyes, she wearily reflected on the past events in her life, wondering where she had failed. Only a few months ago her family had been complete. Then her older son — a youth in his middle teens — ran away from home. And just a few days ago, her daughter and her other son — both barely in their teens — also ran away from home. To make things worse, they stole the family savings — several hundred dollars. Now there would not be the exciting vacation they had been looking forward to for such a long time. Where were her children in this hostile, dog-eat-dog world? Were they safe? What would happen to them when the money was spent — or stolen? With tears streaming down her face and sobs beginning to shake her body, she cried, "Where, oh where, have I failed?"
Another Sad-but True Story
A few states away, another father and mother were sitting in the loneliness of their home, and pondering — as they had many times before — where they had failed their children. Their one and only son was serving a prison sentence of possibly 42 years for being an accomplice to murder and kidnapping. He could have been released in the near future for good behavior, but he keeps getting into trouble in the prison. The parents have very little money. And since the imprisoned son is many miles away, they rarely get to see him. Their daughter married a young man who is presently in Vietnam. Prior to his induction they obtained a divorce and the daughter came back to her parents with her two little babies. And as if this weren't enough, the parents were recently stunned to hear that their daughter is now in trouble again. Because the mother's health has deteriorated rapidly, the father is having to carry the brunt of the whole wretched mess — including the rearing of his daughter's little babies. Just a few days ago, two officials who had been talking to the father asked, "What kind of relationship did you have with your children as they were growing up? Was there affection shown? Was there communication within the family?" The father bitterly replied, "No, there was never anything like that. My wife and I didn't know anything about rearing children."
Thousands of Such Cases
Are these two true stories just isolated examples? Rare occurrences? Unusual circumstances? Not at all! People by the untold thousands are this very minute living examples such as these across the length and breadth of many lands around the globe. You personally probably know several examples like this if you stop to think about it. It is even a definite possibility that your family is such an example. But why? What makes families fail? What goes wrong to cause tragedies like this to happen? Is there a reason? There is a cause for every effect — a reason for every result. There are very definite reasons why some families fail and why other families are successful and happy. This one short article presents three vitally important and basic principles which are the backbone of a stable and happy family. Here they are.
I. Give Yourself to Your Family
"Our parents never have time for us," said a teenager who was recently being interviewed on The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast. "They are always too busy doing the things they want to do." How tragic — but how true! Some time ago, there was a movie in which a father who was dying of cancer was trying to find out why his youngest son didn't want to inherit his vast wealth. His son was drunk most of the time, and though married to a beautiful woman who loved him, wasn't happy. The father kept probing his son with questions as he reminded him of all the gifts he had purchased for him. Finally he struck a raw nerve and his son brokenheartedly cried out, "True, you gave me all of these things, but I don't care about them. All I ever wanted was the one thing you didn't give me — and that is your love." His father replied, "Why son, I've never seen you cry before, and it isn't true that I haven't loved you, for I have always loved you in my own way." His son answered, "You owned us. You were always so interested in how to make money that you never gave us what we really wanted, and that is, of yourself." Then the son asked his father what kind of a father he had had. His father, with a fond look of reflection on his face, said, "You know, my dad didn't leave me anything but an old traveling bag — but he always took me with him wherever he would go." How often this story could be repeated! How many parents there are in today's affluent society who give their children everything but themselves! They simply don't take time for their children. Some parents do see the importance of spending time with their family. But there are far too many parents in all walks of life who feel they are the exception to the rule. They feel that what they are doing is more important than spending time with their family. But which is worse, letting your family suffer physical hardships or letting them suffer mentally, emotionally and spiritually by denying them those things which only you as a parent can give them?
Private Family Activities a Must
There are many activities in which the whole family can participate. Group activities such as picnics, swimming, hiking, and fishing can be great fun. However, group activities should never replace private family activities. In group activities the family too often ends up in other groups and away from each other. About the only time they see each other is going to and returning from the group function. Time spent in private with your family provides an excellent opportunity to teach them the true values of life. There is no substitute for having such family time — with the whole family involved. A lather should rarely let a day go by without seeing and being with his family — at least for a little while. With few exceptions, there should be a planned activity every week which involves the whole family. This will often be difficult. But if you make a way and persist, it will be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life. Take time to be with your precious family! Make the effort to give them of yourself!
II. Communicate with Your Family
John McKee of the Dallas Crime Commission explained to a newspaper reporter this year how 14 to 16 year-old high school girls are lured into taking drugs by an underworld organization. Once hooked, the girls are forced into prostitution to financially support the habit. Mr. McKee was asked if as a result of his work he had learned a lesson that other parents should know. Here is his surprising answer: "Definitely, every one of the girls came from a middle to upper-income family. Usually with one or two children. They all had one thing in common: They didn't feel they could communicate with their families. "In order to test this out, we interviewed 30 or 40 girls who had been approached by the prostitution gang in the same method I described, but who did not succumb. They escaped the trap. These girls felt they could talk to their parents and communicate with them. One, for example, said she felt free to talk to her mother about prostitution when she was 9 years old" (Dallas Morning News, April 18, 1969). Yes, in too many homes there is simply no communication. Any number of excuses can be given, but none is really valid.
Your Children Need Your Help
In this generation especially, our children are constantly surrounded by strong immoral influences. Many of their friends will look on anyone who doesn't succumb to these influences as a square. Today's young people need all the help they can get. Many are crying out for help, but there is no one who will listen or show them the way. Read this pathetic letter written to us by Bonita W. from Baltimore, Maryland: "I am a very frightened and confused girl of 19. I find that I just can't communicate with any of my family, and there is really no elder I have faith enough in to talk to. The only real satisfaction I get out of my tension-filled existence is through your radio programs and magazines. This is why I seek your personal assistance with my problems. My family is a major pain to me. There is no real outgoing love and compassion. Each of us is just concerned about himself. My mother says I'm 19 and should be grown enough to handle my own problems, but I'm not. I'm scared of I don't know what; life I guess. I have questions that confront me every day. But my mother seems afraid to stay in the same room with me long enough for me to start asking these questions. I tried confiding in friends, but they know really no more than I, telling me to do 'my own thing,' stop worrying and get all the fun out of life while I can. I've read your publications on how to live, about dating, etc. and they all make good sense. I want very much to do these things, but it's so hard for one person to stand alone.... I want friends; I can't stand being alone and defeated, and I want to be told what to do. I want somebody to try to understand me and give me some advice. You are the only one I have enough faith in to turn to. I will try very hard to abide by what you tell me. Only please tell me." "Only please tell me!" How many of your children have the same anguished, crying questions in their minds — afraid to voice them for fear of perhaps the same answers as given to Bonita? What a tragedy that so many parents never learn to communicate with their children! All because many parents haven't gotten rid of the wrong teachings — or lack of teaching they received from their parents and others.
Don't Be Naive
Don't be so naive as to think that your children are not exposed to just about everything. One mother in California said: "My daughters come home from school and ask me, 'Mother, what does this word and that word mean?' Believe me, they have heard everything!" And indeed they have — no matter what part of the world they live in. Never have the problems of our young people been so great. Never have they been exposed to so much so soon! They desperately need all the help parents can give them. The only way to give them this help is by communicating with them.
Answer Your Children's Questions
A little child's problems can be mountainous in his or her little mind. To the parent these are too often considered trivial. The children are laughed at and shoved away. If you don't take the time to painstakingly discuss your children's little questions and problems, it could be something (as has been scientifically proved) to affect them the rest of their physical lives. Parents have to use their minds to study to stay abreast of the questions that are asked of them. If you don't have the answers, get them. A young person will not be satisfied otherwise. Communication is absolutely vital to the success of a family. You dare not ignore it!
III. Love Your Family
Six teenage drug users, wearing Halloween masks to protect their anonymity, recently confronted the "straight world" in, an American city to ask for "love and understanding." These young people sat on a panel to answer questions from about 50 parents at a large church. "You could try giving a little more love and a little less money," one young man told the assembled adults who were asking how to discourage drug use. Some of the parents were puzzled at how to show love and understanding to the young drug users in a way that might help them kick the habit. But the youths seemed to think the parental attitude is more important as a preventive measure. "What I really needed before I started all this was something you can't buy or find in a pill. It's — you know — love," said one. The vital importance of love in the lives of every human being cannot be overemphasized. But today we are living in a self-centered, loveless world. Everyone is basically out for himself. Love has to be expressed. Yet today real love is ever so rarely expressed. Many today are unbalanced because genuine love has not been expressed in their lives and the lives of their parents before them. Many of us could count on our fingers the times our parents have kissed and embraced us. How long has it been since you've embraced, kissed and told each of your children that you love him or her? When possible, parents should not let their children go to bed — or anywhere of any duration — without embracing and loving.
Be Equal in Your Attention
Often the first and last children are shown more attention and love than the ones in between. New parents usually feel their first baby is so fragile, a great deal of attention had to be devoted to it — and this is only right. But when the second and third children are born, parents realize they are not quite as fragile as they had thought. They too often then go to the other extreme of neglect. The last child, however, once again gets special attention because he or she is the "baby." Don't let this happen in your family. Make sure you are being equal in the way you express love to your children. Another problem is that some parents feel that once a child has grown beyond babyhood, love and attention are no longer necessary. This is especially true for children between the oldest and youngest. Parents should realize that there a time when all children at all stages of life aren't in desperate need of attention and love. A very heartrending point in a boy's life can be when his father decides he is getting too old to be embraced. To the boy's dismay and perplexity, the father introduces the handshake — love (?) expressed at a distance. In the September 1969 issue of Reader's Digest, appeared an article, "What is a Father?" One of the author's most outstanding memories with his father, who is now deceased, was when he came home from military service and went out to the field where his father was plowing. The father pulled him into his arms and embraced him. Children who are neglected tend to become sullen, resentful and disobedient. When the reason for this behavior is investigated, it is often found that the child is seeking the attention and love that has been denied him. Parents should never neglect any of their children. They should always exercise caution in whatever is done with any of them. When gifts or attention are given, great care should be taken to make sure that this is equal with all children.
The Awesome Power of Love
It has been proved scientifically that the most important experience in anyone's life is love. It has been found that even in the life of a baby, love is such an essential part of its nourishment that unless a baby is loved, the child will not develop as a healthy organism — psychologically, spiritually or even physically. Though the child may be physically well nurtured, without love a child will WASTE AWAY and DIE. Because this was not understood, during the first two decades of this century the majority of babies under one year of age who entered hospitals and children's institutions never emerged alive. Gradually it began to be recognized that it was the lack of love experiences, the emotional deprivation, the absence of mothering, that was causing the tragic ill effects in foundling institutions. It was also found that physical stunting and dwarfism can result from the lack of normal love and affection (see "The Awesome Power of Human Love" in Reader's Digest, Feb., 1963). Dr. Adrian Yonder Veer, in The Unwanted Child, says that maternal rejection may be seen as the "caustic factor in almost every type and every individual case of neurosis or behavior problem in children. "A child learns to love by being loved. When it is not loved it fails to learn to love. "Such children grow up to be persons who find it extremely difficult to understand the meaning of love; hence, they enter into all sorts of human relationships in a shallow way." Love is creative. It greatly enriches the lives of both the receiver and the giver. Are you enriching your life and the lives of those in your family by continually expressing love to them?