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Published On: Thu, Sep 18th, 2014

The family unit: Why is it important?

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What is a family and what purpose does it serve? How does it function? What are its goals? What makes it strong? What destabilizes it? What contributions should each member make to its success? How is success to be measured? The answers to all these questions have a direct effect on good parenting and how children are raised. In this chapter, we attempt to examine these and other issues. We will also make parents and readers aware of the great capacity of the family unit to effect positive social change. The family n0t only transforms its members but ultimately society as a whole. We will also examine how parenting is practiced in the Muslim work and in the West.

In Chapter One we introduced parents te the question of why good parenting matters how parenting is learned, and how the parenting style we choose to adopt affects the kine of people our children become. Becoming good parents goes beyond the nuts and bolt of applying key principles. Parenting require an awareness of the nature of the family uni and its interconnectedness, the major focus this chapter. This chapter will also make con stant reference to love, care and security. P loving family environment responds to bod the needs of children and the needs of parents Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults with a sense of civic re sponsibility.

We also touch on the issues of single-paren families, divorce, changes in family size ane current family conditions in the Muslirr world. The instability facing many Muslirr families may seem to have little bearing or child rearing, but the reality is that stable fam ily units are essential to forging stable and dy namic societies.

Some define the “family” as a group of people related to one another, others as a social unit, and yet others as a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. Although there are many views of the family, definitions of the traditional family are often closely related to marriage and children. It is also through marriage that the family unit often evolves, since marriage is not merely a partnership of two individuals, but a merger of two extended families. The modern family unit (particularly in the West) has transformed considerably over the years, changing from an extended to a nuclear structure. In addition, family size has changed (people are having less children).

However, a family ought to be much more than the sum total of its parts. A family is part of the larger culture, and ideally, a whole culture in itself. It is important for us to understand the greatness of the roles we play within family. A family is a little house of worship, a little government, and a little school of goodness.

Transition to Parenthood

When we think of a family, we normally think of parents and children. First time parents undergo a transition from a dyad (two people) to a triad (three people) upon the arrival of the first child. With the arrival of children parents enter a new phase of life. Parents go through a period of adjustment due to the changes in lifestyle that children bring (including hardships and tensions as well as joy and happiness). When a baby is born to a Muslim family certain traditional rites take place to welcome the newborn (Zaydan, Abdul Kareem, in Arabic, 1993): place on the seventh day after birth or later. The meat can be cooked and people can be invited to eat it at a community feast twaltmah). The meat should be used to feed the family and the people of the community, both poor and rich.

The animal has to be a wholesome and healthy one without defects. Upon slaughtering the animal the following prayer is to be said, “In the name of Allah, for Your sake and from You Oh Almighty God, this is the ‘Aqiqah of the baby [name]:’

Ahmad and al- Tirrnidhi reported that the Prophet it said: “Every child is mortgaged by its ‘aqiqah, which should be slaughtered seven days after childbirth, the child’s hair should be shaved, and the child should be named:’ This is recommended and is not obligatory. In addition the Prophet it told his daughter Fatimah to weigh the shaved hair of the baby with silver and donate the silver to the poor. Jews have similar observances but for Christians baptism often meets their requirements.

Effects of Children on Marital Stability

The family unit is immediately put under pressure with the arrival of children. Parenthood, although a great gift, is not always the exciting event that it is sometimes assumed to be. Upon becoming parents, couples should realize that life will never be the same again, and prepare themselves accordingly for the challenges that lie ahead. Parents will need to sacrifice some of their interests for those of the baby; and the capability of being a mother or father will come into question. It will not be easy, especially for mothers, to cope with the fatigue of being constantly on call for the baby. Fathers may not come home to a cheerful wife, a happy child, and a spotless house, and many fathers, may see their wives overworked, unhappy, and unable to take care of them as before.

Motherhood involves mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Little sleep and constant care of the baby will take a toll on even the strongest of relationships, and ultimately may cause the marriage to suffer.

Financial issues become more significant as couples struggle with house and job responsibilities while caring for a child. This can also have an adverse effect on married life.

Life can be particularly stressful for parents who work full-time. Some parents avoid putting their children with child care agencies and work alternate shifts to enable one parent to always be at home with the child. Although this is good for the child, it is not optimal for the husband and wife, who become like two ships passing in the night. In such cases the relationship can deteriorate rapidly. Parents may have petty disagreements or destructive struggles over whose turn it is to clean the house or wash the dishes. Parents who feel guilty about the lack of time spent with children may exacerbate matters further by cutting back on “couple time” in favor of “child time.” Other parents spoil their children with e gifts, money, and junk food (rather than spending time with them), putting even more :l financial and social pressure on themselves.

Such pressures will put the marriage under n strain, especially if the couple’s limited time y together is turned into complaint sessions instead of intimate chats. Marital conflict bettween parents impacts negatively on children.

Many parents suffer from lack of communication which leads to misunderstanding and , unresolved conflict. Children should not be s treated as “small adults” who are expected to always behave like grown-ups. It is also wrong d to treat children as annoying, it is their habit o to be persistent and to ask questions. Their physical, emotional, and developmental needs are must be fulfilled.

The following are a few suggestions to help parents manage the transition to parenthood. The change in family dynamics from being husband and wife to being mothers and fathers will hopefully be less stressful.

Schedule some daily or weekly time to spend alone together as a couple. This could include going for a walk, doing some exercise, or having dinner together. Talking on the phone during the day or getting up a few minutes early to focus on each other is helpful. Sharing babysitting time with other trusted parents is also a good practice.

Share expectations with your spouse. Discuss any anxieties which you may have concerning your new role as parents. Talk about the impact of parenthood on your health, your relationship, and your jobs.

Spend time on eating meals together, worshipping together, having sex, and exercise.

Since the baby’s demands will take up all your time, make time for communication even if the dirty clothes and unwashed dishes have to wait.

Express your disagreements and do not be afraid of conflict. Regard a fight as an indication that something is wrong in the relationship, and seek counseling together.

Talk with a trusted friend or a wise co-worker who has experienced the transition from spouse to parent. This helps to alleviate feelings of isolation. Make sure you speak with a person of the same gender, and do not reveal anything about your spouse that is private.

 

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