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Once upon a time, not so long ago, family was everything to us. Parents, siblings, family members, all came first in our lives. You couldn’t do without them. They were the first you turned to in adversity and in sharing of good news.
The family had so much influence on the individual that you thought twice before you engaged in any act of misdemeanour, as a list of dos and don’ts had been drummed well into you right from childhood, and you were raised, to know that you must not do anything that would bring dishonour/disgrace to the family. You were loyal to your family and you chose your confidants from among the members.
Having them behind you gave you the confidence you needed to face the world, until you have a family of your own, and you and your spouse become members of two extended families.
All this was irrespective of whether your family was polygamous or monogamous. Most heads of family took their responsibility seriously, not only by providing for the welfare of members, but also by ensuring that everyone stayed connected to the family. Family was dear to everyone, irrespective of distance or social level.
Sadly, that affinity seems to be disappearing fast as among young people of this generation. I must say I was shocked while listening to a contributory programme on radio, when quite a number of listeners who contributed said that they would rather confide in their friends than in family members. The question was, ‘Who comes first for you; your siblings, your relations or your friends’?
When the first caller said that he would rather go to his friend, I dismissed it as a joke, coming from someone who wanted to shock other listeners, knowing the importance of family in our culture.
What sort of African, especially a Ghanaian, would put a friend first before his relations? Look at the way many people rush home every December to spend the Christmas period with their kith and kin. Look at the way they take their dead to go bury in their family compound!
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the thought that that caller could prefer his friends to his relatives didn’t make sense to me. However, as more callers expressed that view, I began to realize that this could be the trend now, as some of our young people join their western counterparts in putting family on the back burner. The anchorman who was a young person himself laughed at this view, and asked several of them why they would rather go confide in friends rather than members of their own family.
‘My friends understand my vibes’, claimed one. ‘A friend is always there for one without criticizing’, said another one. ‘Don’t you like members of your family?’ asked the anchorman. ‘Sure I do, but I would rather go ask my friends for advice when I have a problem, than go to family members.’
Hm! That’s unfortunate, isn’t it? A few listeners did say that they would rather go to their relatives with their problems than go to friends, but from their voices, I deduced that they must be older than the other lot.
I asked myself how and when our society has degenerated to this sorry state of affairs. Is it the influence of foreign media; particularly of showbiz people and other celebrities? Or, is it due to the stress of living in this country which makes parents too worn out to have the time to forge a healthy relationship with their wards? It’s a sorry state of affairs because, even though there could be friends who would give good advice, but these are few, and even then, only the very godly would give you advice that would make your situation better than theirs.
Also, due to inexperience, advice from friends on many crucial issues of life, are likely to be the wrong ones. People come from different backgrounds and upbringing.
Some have good values and choices taught them, while others don’t at all. A parent who thinks it’s alright to steal public funds, ask for bribes, cheat in business, spend money entrusted to his/her care, is very unlikely to bring up children who won’t cheat in examinations, who won’t engage in internet scams, and would show themselves honest citizens.
Those parents, who feel that having good moral values are meant for characters in fiction books on religion and not for real life, are unlikely to raise children who know right from wrong on the issue.
Children brought up by parents who are uncouth, disruptive, and who settle scores with violence, cannot advise their friends to be calm and law-abiding citizens. The list goes on.
The imagination boggles at what advice the offspring of these sort of parents can give to their friends who choose them as their confidants, instead of members of their own family. No wonder that we are living in a decadent society, and shocking criminal activities continue to be committed?
Young people will, at a point in future, take over the reins of governance and run this country. A frightening thought, isn’t it, given what some of them engage in? To make matters worse, many adults of this generation are not good role models.
We know that by divine intervention, some children from these backgrounds can turn out to be honest people with integrity, have good morals and a high sense of responsibility, but we all know that this is not the norm, unless we parents see the need to discipline ourselves and raise our children to be of good character, by our own example. Family ties have become so slack that some children raise themselves; with the friends they prefer to confide in as their role model.
Many things on raising children fall on us the parents. Giving them enough attention and loving care would help ensure that they regard us and their siblings as friends. Hopefully with the help of God, this may pay off and our children will always have confidants among members of the family, and they would be guided the right way. When they have their own homes, they and their marital partners would raise their own children the same way, and would lead to having more well-adjusted citizens to run the affairs of this nation in a way that would bring us respect.
Religious leaders have a role to play in ensuring that parents raise their children by good example. They should preach more on how to raise godly children by example, than on how to get wealth. Poverty is not a desirable state to be in, but not everyone is destined to be a billionaire, so, the focus of messages from the pulpit shouldn’t always be on how to acquire wealth. Programmes can be run by religious organisations to empower people to have a better life. Constant messages on more money and more property, only make the poor dissatisfied with their situation, and this could push them into criminal activities.
The government too has an important role to play in order to ensure that children are raised well. Qualitative education, healthcare, transportation, housing, and basic social amenities should be affordable to all citizens. No child should be without a vocation, and more jobs should be created so that parents can take good care of their children, and also for young people to be gainfully employed on completion of their studies.
Source: Atta Kwaku Boadi || Todaygh