My daughter had a discussion with someone who believed that the family does not play a role in child development. She tried in several ways to highlight the importance of the family, which to her greatest dismay, he found difficult to comprehend. When she shared this with me I wanted to wave it off because I couldn’t understand how a human being could argue over something that is a given. The more I thought of their discussion, the more I saw the need to write on this important issue that bothers on the mission of Genuine Womanhood Initiative (GWI).

GWI is a Social Reform group that champions wholesome family values to build responsible citizens and promote true humanity. How can we encourage wholesome values if we cannot first understand the importance of the family unit?

In Social studies we are taught that family is the basic unit of society that forms community. The family is commonly known as a group of people related by blood or ancestry. Some others say family has nothing to do with genes but more to do with love, compassion and support. To such the family may be considered as a group of people who share family life and live in the same household together. At Kindergarten level, the children are taught that a family consists of father, mother and children. I can still hear our kindergarteners reciting this. You and I know that the definition of family has evolved but the importance of family still remains. Now, isn’t that something? No matter the definition, family members in modern society support each other physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

When we talk about the family, we must be mindful of the persons who come together as husband and wife to have children. Selection of the right partner is the key! What should guide our selection process should be our values and not superficial reasons such as he is handsome and has money or she is beautiful and speaks well. These reasons should not form the only basis for choosing a life partner or else that partner may not stay with you for life. When we select appropriately, we can hope for a family that will stay together to raise well adjusted children. When the selection of a partner is faulty, there will be resentment in future leading to a breakdown in the marriage. Who are the people hardest hit by a marriage breakup; the children! I remember an adolescent telling me that he had severe anger issues. He even showed me the wounds he sustained when he punched the door to his hostel because of anger. He had much resentment, which he couldn’t discuss with his family. Another youth told me about how he had trust issues and found it difficult to have lasting relationships because he was raised by parents who resented each other. Therefore, before you say ‘I do’ or before you begin to have children, think about the step you’re about to take and the gravity of its consequences.

Now, to address the question; is family still important in today’s world, we shall first look at the benefits of a healthy family.

  1. The Family meets the basic needs of its members such as food, water and shelter.
  2. Family gives you a sense of belonging, which Abram Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ acknowledged as being crucial to humans.
  3. Family provides financial security for everyone living in the household.
  4. Family offers its members a support system. A healthy family has each other’s backs and loves unconditionally.
  5. A healthy family promotes healthy lifestyles such as healthy meals, prompt medical attention and healthy choices such as not doing drugs, smoking and binge drinking.
  6. Healthy families produce people who make positive contributions to the community. This is achieved because children are taught good manners, how to share and show consideration to others. The parents model right behavior. For instance, they show children that providing money, food and supplies to the community helps support it so it can serve everyone better. Just as most children have witnessed how families, organizations, government, rallied round to provide palliatives during this COVID-19 Pandemic. As sad as the experience of Corona virus is, it has taught us how we can achieve great things when we pull together and support one another.

Having looked at the benefits of a healthy family to its members, let’s now look at the benefits to the society and by extension, the nation.

One function of the family in today’s modern society is multi-functional. Family provides members with the basic necessities required for healthy and happy life. A happy child grows up to become a happy adult living a productive happy life.

One of the most important ways parents contribute to society is by educating their children. Education exposes children to national and global issues and the ability to proffer workable solutions. For example family members may share their political views and assess the qualifications of potential candidates in an upcoming election. This will inspire members of the family who are eligible to vote to make informed choices that will promote the general wellbeing of the nation.

A healthy family will encourage ethical behavior which the members exhibit at school, work and in community life.

It is at the family unit that children learn how to resolve conflicts. The children get first hand information on how to resolve conflicts from how they see their parents treat each other and people around them. This is an important area to note because much of the problems we have in our society stem from people not knowing how to resolve conflicts. Conflicts will surely arise because we see things differently but the ability to recognize that each person will act according to his or her conditioning will allow us to make room for differences in opinions. Secondly, the ability to concede to higher reasoning is what makes us matured human beings. It behooves on parents to pay attention to this vital area of teaching our children right from wrong values. Teach children to say sorry when they’re wrong and be truly remorseful. When a child is able to acknowledge a wrong doing, he or she will not push blames on others or refuse to accept responsibility when this child becomes an adult. From get go, teach toddlers that throwing a tantrum is unacceptable. Teach children to follow the laws of the land by obeying them as parents. For example, obey traffic lights, throw litter in the bin and keep public property in order. These little things teach our children to become responsible citizens.

Of course, not all families contribute positively to society. Dysfunctional families often harm their family members so much that the society needs to step in to take responsibility for children in such homes. This is why Genuine Womanhood Initiative (GWI) creates awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences with the view to reducing the number of children being raised in very dysfunctional homes. If early intervention is given, children from very dysfunctional homes can have a chance of a normal life. Some of these interventions include, the child suffering severe abuse being removed from the home and taken into protective custody. Secondly, counseling would be necessary to help that child learn how to get in touch with his or her feelings about family and learn how to express these feelings positively. Going back to the discussion my daughter had with that man who did not see the essence of the family unit, one can assume that he was raised in a very dysfunctional home, which has shaped his personality and perception of life in general. If he had the help of a counselor to teach him techniques for changing his thoughts, emotions and behavior, he would have been more loving and giving. This man is not alone in his perception that family does not matter. If we research carefully, we shall find many more who feel the way he does. This is quite sad. Having to live without love and care and believing that is the way to live is indeed very sad. You can begin to imagine the turmoil in some people’s minds. Such persons can harm others without blinking an eye because life is not sacred to them. Such persons harm the progress of society. Now imagine someone who lacks a sense of value for life sitting at the helm of affairs? What kind of decisions will such an individual be taking on behalf of the nation? The up-building of the nation starts from the family unit. Put the family in order and put the nation in order.

Written by: Lady Jane Ndukwe