June 04, 2006

Fr. Roy Cimagala

Family and school

I was happy to learn recently of an American study that provides concrete data on the close relationship between our family life and the children’s performance in schools. Even if the data are American based, they are relevant since they can shed light on our local situation.

The study should alert us to ever strengthen our families, and to more effectively handle issues that tend to weaken our sense of family. We cannot take this responsibility lightly. We are facing difficult challenges in this regard.

According to this study, done by the Center for Marriage and Families, a part of the New York-based Institute for American Values, and covering a period of 35 years, the proportion of children raised in two-parent homes has dropped drastically.

From a high of 85 percent in 1968, this proportion dropped to 70 percent in 2003. Of course, the proportion of children raised in single-parent homes practically doubled, from 15 percent to 30 percent, for the same period.

The consequences are very disturbing. Marital breakup is associated with a higher incidence of anti-social behavior in the classroom for boys. Children from homes headed by their own married parents have the fewest incidences of misbehavior at school.

Students from non-intact families miss school, are tardy, and cut class about 30 percent more often than do students from intact homes. Parents in non-intact family homes appear less able to supervise and monitor their children.

Teen-agers from non-intact families are more likely to smoke, use drugs and consume alcohol. They are more likely to be sexually active.

Young people who have never lived with their biological fathers have the highest odds of being arrested.

Children growing up without their own married parents are linked with higher rates of stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem during the teen-age years. These problems reduce their ability to focus and achieve in school.

We have to see to it that in the first place our own families are strong and healthy, not only socially and economically, but also and more importantly, spiritually and morally. Then we can start reaching out to other families, especially those in distress.

We have to remember that family welfare is a crucial part of our common good. It should also be a part of our common concern. We have to help one another in this area.

Thus we have to learn how to organize ourselves more effectively to face the challenges. This can be done in the community level, or parish and school levels. Even professional and social associations can be tapped for this purpose.

Initiatives in this regard should be promoted. Continuing formation among couples especially about courtship, marriage and family life should be established. Counseling services should be made available.

We have to encourage everyone to give due attention to his or her family, putting in ample time with the children, and equipping him with skills to transmit proper values to children. This has to be done in a serious way.

The truth is that we are confronted with a lot of challenges. There are moves to legalize divorce that surely will undermine the family. There is apathy in the efforts to solve problems like infidelity, rise of illegitimate children, separation of parents due to socio-economic reasons, etc.

There has to be a more scientific effort to tackle the different problems families can meet. Both Church and government, as well as other non-government organizations, should give their appropriate contributions.

(Email: roycimagala@hotmail.com)

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