Yes, the family is a human necessity. It has a direct effect on the stability of society and the well-being of children and future generations. No doubt, there are many, many single mothers who work very hard to rear fine children, and they should be commended for their hard work. However, studies show that children usually are far better off if they live in a family with both parents.
An Australian study of over 2,100 adolescents found that "teens from disrupted families had more general health problems, were more likely to display signs of emotional problems, and were more likely to be sexually active than kids from intact families." A study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health Statistics revealed that children from broken homes were "20-30 percent more likely to have an accident, 40-75 percent more likely to have to repeat a grade of school, and 70 percent more likely to be expelled from school." And a policy analyst reports that "children from single-parent homes are far more likely to get involved in crime than those growing up in traditional homes."
Home Is the Haven
The family arrangement offers a happy, upbuilding, and pleasant home to all. "The most important source of happiness and well-being is neither career, things, hobbies nor friends but the family," a Swedish authority claims.
The Bible shows that every family on earth owes its name to the Grand Creator of families, Jehovah God, in that he instituted the family arrangement. (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:23, 24; Ephesians 3:14, 15) However, in the inspired Scriptures, the apostle Paul foretold a vicious attack on the family, resulting in a breakdown of morality and human society outside the Christian congregation. He said that "the last days" would be marked by disloyalty, absence of "natural affection," and disobedience to parents, even among those "having a form of godly devotion." He urged Christians to turn away from such ones. Jesus foretold that opposition to God's truth would divide families.—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 10:32-37.
God has not left us without assistance, though. In his Word much space is devoted to instructions concerning family relationships. It tells us how we can make the family a success and the home a delightful place where each family member has a responsibility to fulfill toward the others.*—Ephesians 5:33; 6:1-4.
Is it possible to achieve such a happy relationship in these days when the family is severely threatened? Yes, indeed! You can succeed in making your family an enjoyable, refreshing oasis in this tough, desertlike world. But this requires something from everybody in the family circle. Following are some suggestions.
Helping Your Family to Survive
One of the best ways a family can stay united is by spending time together. All members should willingly pool their spare time. That may mean sacrifices. You teenagers, for example, may have to sacrifice some favorite TV program, sports event, or outing with friends. You fathers, who usually are the major breadwinners, do not use leisure time just for a hobby or other personal interests. Plan activities with the family, perhaps how to spend weekends or vacations together. Of course, plan something that everybody will look forward to and enjoy.
Children need more than so-called quality time, that is, a set half an hour or so with the children periodically. They need quantity. A columnist in a Swedish daily writes: "During my 15 years as a reporter, I have met a great number of juvenile delinquents . . . A common denominator is that they seem to have been exposed to quality-time upbringing: 'My parents had no time.' 'They never listened.' 'He was always traveling.' . . . As a parent, you can always choose how much time you will give your child. Your choice is judged 15 years later by a ruthless 15-year-old."
Proper View of Money
All members should also develop a proper view of money. They should be ready to pool what they can to cover the family's common expenses. Many women have to get a job to make ends meet, but you wives should be aware of the dangers and temptations you might encounter. This world urges you to "fulfill" yourselves and to "do your own thing." It may cause you to become independent and dissatisfied with your God-given role as a mother and homemaker.—Titus 2:4, 5.
If you mothers can be at home and be a guide and friend to your children, it will certainly contribute greatly toward building strong bonds that will help keep your family together through thick and thin. A woman can contribute outstandingly to making a home happy, secure, and functional. "It takes a hundred men to make an encampment, but one woman can make a home," said a 19th-century politician.
If all in the family cooperate to live within the family's total income, it will spare the family many problems. Couples should agree to keep life simple and to put spiritual interests first. Children should learn contentment, not demanding things that the family budget cannot support. Watch out for the desire of the eyes! The temptation to buy things you cannot afford, getting into debt, has led many families into shipwreck. It may be good for family unity if all pool their funds for a joint undertaking—a refreshing journey, some useful and enjoyable equipment for the home, or a contribution to support the Christian congregation.
Another form of "contribution" to a happy family spirit that all family members should pool is the sharing in cleaning and maintenance work—caring for the house, the garden, the car, and so forth. Each family member, even the younger ones, could be assigned some part of a task. You children, try not to waste your time. Instead, develop a spirit of helpfulness and cooperation; this will result in genuine friendship and companionship, which build family unity.
Value of Bible Education
In a united Christian family, the importance of regular Bible study is also stressed. Daily discussion of Bible texts and a weekly study of the Sacred Scriptures provide a basis for a united family. Basic Bible truths and principles should be discussed together in a way that stirs the hearts of all in the family.
Such family sessions should be educational but at the same time enjoyable and encouraging. A family in the north of Sweden used to have the children write down questions that came up during the week. These questions were then discussed at the weekly Bible study. The questions were often deep and thought-provoking and proved to be a reflection of the children's thinking abilities and appreciation of Bible teachings. Some questions were: "Does Jehovah make everything grow all the time, or did he do it just once?" "Why does the Bible say that God created man 'in his image' since God is not a man?" "Didn't Adam and Eve freeze during the winter in Paradise since they were barefoot and didn't have any clothes?" "Why do we need the moon at night when it should be dark?" The children are now grown and are serving God as full-time ministers.
When handling family problems, you parents do well to strive to be positive and cheerful. Be considerate and flexible, yet consistent, when it comes to heeding important principles. Let the children see that love for God and his right principles always governs your decisions. The school environment is often very stressful and depressive, and the children need much encouragement in the home to counterbalance such an influence.
Parents, do not pretend to be perfect. Admit mistakes and apologize to your children when necessary. Young people, when Mom and Dad admit a blunder, grow in love for them.—Ecclesiastes 7:16.
Yes, a united family provides a home of peace, security, and happiness. The German poet Goethe once said: "He is happiest, king or peasant, who finds his happiness at home." For appreciative parents and children, there should be no place like home.
True, the family is severely threatened today by the pressures of the world in which we live. But since the family is from God, it will survive. Your family will survive, and you will too if you follow God's righteous guidelines for happy family life.