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October 3, 1997     The Message
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October 3, 1997 ' The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 Actually thriving during the parenting years By CHARLIE BALSAM Catholic News Service Parents need vision, insight and support to help them weather the parenting years. To have vision is to be reasonably clear about who we are and what we are called to be as parents. Furthermore, to thrive (not just survive the parent- ing years), parents need to: Pray with and for their children. Ask God for wisdom, patience and humor. Periodically evaluate their priorities. Schedule regular family meetings which give chil- dren a voice, empowering them to solve problems and experience forgiveness. Limit and monitor TV programs. Communicate with each other about home life and how the children are doing. In addition, two invaluable qualities provided by par- ents bring safety and security to children: Children with two parents benefit by seeing that their parents love each other, are intimate and affec- uonate, tear with one another and resolve serious con- nicts. This is especially important for the parents them- selves, since they will likely live together longer without children than with them. And children benefit from clear parental leader- ship. This provides structure and flexibility, fosters responsibility and gradually extends freedom to make decisions. Too permissive a household breeds self-centeredness and immaturity; too rigid a household breeds resent- ment and insecurity. Does what I have written thus far make the parent's roleThesoUndpressureCOm plexof kee in" u with the activities of all the" . . P g P mshtuhons that benefit our children can fragment us. Infrequent contact with extended family members, nmlc .insecurity and various cultural influences fur. COmptlcate our task. Vatican Council II called parents "the primary edu- cators of children" because: Through parents children a given their first con- tact with an image of God. re Parents exert a foundational influence on a child's OVerall development. Parents are the first heralds of the Gospel. The COUncil viewed the role of parents as "so deci- sive that'it is almost im os " Substi,.= .... p slble to provide an adequate ^ "",. t taerefore, it is the resvonsibilit of arents ucreate a famil atmos h = Y P devoti-. - . Y p ere animated by love and rnotoo, to Goct and others  an atmos here that ro- - an hat P P egrated, personal and social education" of children (Declaration on Christian Education). At the outset I said parents need insight. I meant insight into how children develop, how families grow and evolve over the years. Insight can be acquired in a variety of ways: by reading, attending workshops, finding a "mentor" couple or periodical- ly reflecting with orie's spouse on their .priorities as parents and what they are learning from the children themselves. This leads me to the need for support. I believe parents shouldn't discount the value of forming or joining a peer group with other couples raising children. It also helps when parents strengthen their relationship with those who assist them in child rearing: teachers, coaches, health-care providers. Your parish's director of religious edu- cation or family minister and your dioce- san family life office may provide helpful information on children's faith develop- ment and family development. If need- ed, often they can refer you to reputable counselors. Even with vision, insight and support and the investment of much time no parent can be God. Assuming we are not abusive, we still will fail periodical- ly. But, as the family sociologist Dennis Guernsey said, if we co-create with God a family-centered life of commitment, we will create many memories, and chil- dren's happy memories will far out- number the sad. Balsam is an adult and family minister at St. Louis Church in Austin, Texas. "If we co-create with God a family-centered life of commit- ment.., children's happy memories will far outnumber the sad," explains Charlie Balsam. -- CNS photo from Cleo Freelance Photo Hats ...... .... :: =;: Continued from page 8 dren day in and day out in different ways, God is with us as co-parent, as guide and as companion. All Christians are promised that divine support, no matter what vocation they choose. At Confirmation, we're offered the gifts of the Holy Spirit: fortitude, courage, understanding -- all the stuff we need to move from role to role, from kitchen to car, from child to unique child. When we see ourselves as co-creators with God of each child's life and we call on the Spirit of God to assist us as we struggle with the daily duties of parenting, we can be assured that we are following the way of love. Maybe that will put things in perspective a bit. It does for me! Pedersen is coordinator of the Leadership in Family Life Training Program for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb. I III  I II I I ] 11 II  I I I I r I I I ] I " ,i i I i I 0 Faithwh00,,o_in the marketplace the World ule to luggle working and having enough time with your children so that "Reb_uesn't bring them up "-- Valerie Howard-Jones, Hyattsville, Md. Whel,...,ng to their child, because children in today's society are facin over- . -un - - g Mike capressures  and a lot of parents are out of tune with those pressures." ,,, pellone, Philadelphia. Pa. . . ila;ttebe!n.g one, because there are so many roles to play. The hardest thing is mak- YOu're n! slns that constantly have to be made  never (always) knowing if ',Jugglinmg the right one."  Doris Bantle, Shreveport, La. chila._ .g me demands of a full time iob and trvin to do all the thin I think m ., ",endes .... - J - o gs y tonlai, ,-,, . ve in the way of parenting: my time, my attention, my concern." 'Keem ts, Middlefield, C)hio.  - - Adr'- r'L'' faith within the hous,,hnld within your kids, and within ourself" - -"-uoe, Washington, D.C. An Upcomin editionaks W/tat er , ,  ltturgy t.. g. . . p spectn e  outloc k-- do tlou take from flu Sundau tion, plea"'-guzaesyu during tile week? If you would like to res),o,,d r'l,ossibh" l,ublica"- o wrne: emth Alive! 3211 Fourt'hSt. N.E., Washington, D.C. 2"0017-11[XI. What is a parent? I don't think the question can be answered in 25 words or less. What do you think? All parents are different. One parent's style cannot define parenthood for another. And parenthood is a complex web woven of many roles! A parent is a child's source of unconditional love and respect; a compan- ion, authority figure, friend, educator, guide and coach; an enabler, confidant, provider and counselor. Parents trust, defend, protect and promote children. Parents care for sick children and nurture all their children. A parent is a role model, a trusted adult presence in a child's world. No wonder it's easy to feel underqualified for parenthood! Still, at times when big concerns need to be addressed between pare and child, it can help to remember the parent's muitifaceted identity. For example, a parent can love a child and enforce boundaries at the same time  even if the child doesn't think so. Again, it probably won't work well for a parent to set boundaries or guide a child without also being the child's companion. Anyway, it's no wonder the church cx)rsiders parenthood a vocation. There's plenty there to engage a person fully, and it requires total commitment. David Gibson, Editor, Faith Alive! : Ul[J[ I [11 q[ I  [ II [ [ [ Jr [11[ [ [