We were given the opportunity to be part of the Caribbean Pastoral Institute 2019. One of the modules presented was on family life. In this module, the participants were exposed to the topic ‘Children are Gift’, one of the parenting programmes offered by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC). It was truly an enlightening experience!
To begin with we understood why children are referred to as gifts: “Every child is a gift from God, created in His own image and likeness and a person in his/her own right worthy of reverence from the moment of conception. A child is a treasure full of potential,” said presenter Tricia Syms.
At the beginning of the module we were divided into groups and given a creative exercise. Through this activity we were able to use skills such as listening, communicating, collaborating, bonding, and patience. We had to extend ourselves in different ways, encourage and give guidance to one another. This exercise exposed us to the challenges involved in parenting and in this way, we also saw the importance of using wisdom to achieve effective parenting.
We also learnt that there were principles involved in parenting especially to facilitate a child reaching his /her full potential. These principles included loving children unconditionally, using constructive discipline, spending time together, developing mutual trust, and teaching them right from wrong.
Children learn values from the example set by their parents and these values should be informed by our faith. Parents should also offer guidance, foster independence and not put unrealistic demands on their children.
The importance of Erick Erickson’s eight stages of development from 0–1 year old right up to young adult was presented and discussed. Parents should understand these various stages and respond appropriately to children’s behaviour and thinking at each stage.
A segment on fathering was conducted by AFLC’s Richard Smith. He gave a scintillating and eye-opening presentation on the debilitating effects of the lack of presence and leadership role of the father in the home.
He noted that a father may be physically present but emotionally absent, and opined that the main problem in our country is not the wayward youth but parents who shirked their responsibilities.
He stated that we need to fix the adults if we are to fix the nation since children imitate the adult models in their lives. If there is no father who is morally and emotionally present in the family then our young people will turn to gangs for the necessary example and emotional support.
At the end of this module on ‘Children are Gift’ it was recommended that there should be Common Sense Parenting seminars conducted in our parishes, and several texts were recommended to us for useful reading including Beyond the Birds and the Bees and Good News about Sex and Marriage.
We were also able to clarify and understand better the Church’s teaching on surrogate motherhood and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of the day it was quite an edifying and knowledge-building module on this most important of topics. Many thanks to the presenters for their labour of love! —Sean Julien and Carolyn Keller