The First School of Love

I have more than 4500 friends in my Face Book friendship circle. The vast majority of them are young men and women. So I get often good news from my F B friends. In response to the good news from young couple I congratulate them heartily saying, “Welcome to the new arrival and hearty congratulations to the proud patents.”

But I feel that my words of appreciation for the couple, who have become parents, are lukewarm. For, they have become partners in the creative enterprise of the Creator. With my lukewarm words adding my love and warm feelings I pray for all the three persons that the good Lord bless them abundantly and keep them healthy.

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia) says that the family is the first school of education for a child. The child’s upbringing starts from the very first moment of its existence, that is, its conception in the mother’s womb. Pope Francis has devoted one whole chapter out of 9 chapters to deal with the upbringing of children and their education. Pope gives uppermost importance to the formation given to children at home.

Family is the school for every child born in this world. The child’s father and mother are the first teachers and molders of a child. A child’s mind is like a blank black board. A child is not conscious of the good and the bad. A child inherits very many things from its family.

A child learns about its family, society and the country from its parents, elders   and other relatives with whom s/he comes into contact. So Pope Francis says that the caring, guidance and supervision of a child by his/her parents in the family and outside is very important.

In bringing up a child its parents have to take a hundred and one steps; that is to say, they have to do innumerable things. What does a child do in the whole day? Whom does s/he meet? What does s/he do during free time? Who are the people, who entertain him/her? Who are the boys/girls with whom he/she plays? Who are his/her partners in games? What type of programmes he/she watches in the electronic media? The parents should watch over all these types of all things discreetly without interfering his/her freedom and creativity.

The parents are to oversee all things that concern their children with much love and understanding. For this, the parents should spend time with their children. But the parents should not be obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements. The children should not be over protected. Their freedom and right to develop and grow themselves should be respected.

Pope Francis says, “What is most important is the ability to lovingly  help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. The real question, then, is not where our children are physically or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams” (No.261).

I know a parent who to protect his teenage child, has resigned from his job. Now he engages himself in odd jobs in his spare time after taking his daughter to school and bringing her back home after school hours. Pope Francis says, “It is neither necessary nor important that the parents follow every step of their children. But, parents are responsible for shaping the will of their children, fostering good habits and natural inclination to goodness” (264).

Pope Francis says that the children, who enjoy love and freedom, will surprise us with their behavior and thoughts. Their unexpected thoughts and ideas are challenges to us. They compel us to rethink our own values and ideals. This is a very good thing. For, the people with understanding will encourage true education to use wisely the intellectual freedom.

Moral and ethical formation of children is very important. It is the responsibility of the parents to cultivate good habits and well being of everyone. Pope Francis says, “A good ethical education includes showing a person that it is his own interest to do what is right.” (265). Children should be able to understand distinguish between what is good and what is evil. A child should know that it is his/her own interest to stay away from bad things. Children should develop good habits so that she/he makes his/her own good values and behave accordingly. In the moral and ethical formation of children the good examples and behaviors of their parents and other elders are paramount importance.

Pope Francis says that, when children make mistakes, they should be helped to understand their mistakes and the way to correct and improve or restore the original situation. The children should learn to ask pardon when they offend someone or do something wrong. For this the children need to experience the patience and trust of their parents.

The discipline imposed on the children should never make them discouraged but see the discipline as for their own good and development. The family is the first school for children to learn human values and freedom. Authority of parents should never be autocratic. For children the parents should always be a source of love and trust.

Pope Francis puts great importance for children’s sexual education in the family. He says that our educational institutions have not taken up the challenges of children’s sexual education. First we have to consider that it is not an easy job. Sexual education should be given in the context of education of love and self offering.  Children and young boys and girls are not yet mature in sexual matters. The information about sex should be in keeping with the age of the children. The young boys and girls should not make the mistake of considering the attraction of the opposite sex as love.

The young boys and girls should understand the forces of sexual attraction for one another are something that leads them to true love and mutual self offering. In Popes’ own words, “Sexual education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others” (285).

While understanding the bodily differences of man and woman they should appreciate the differences as precious gift of the creator. Then, everybody should know that apart from the differences of persons as man and woman there are also many differences depending on family history, different cultural experiences, education, friends, relatives and the upbringing are also important as they affect the personality of individuals.

Finally in the education of upbringing of a child the inheritance of the religions are also included. Here without pointing to any ideal family Pope says to cultivate the love relationship in the family and develop each one’s talents and capacities.

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Changed On: 01-06-2018

Next Change: 16-06-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018