Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Home: Refuge or Combat Zone?

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

For many, their home is a place of refuge. For others, it is a battle zone.

Life is full of challenges - be it in the workplace, at school or on the field of play. In order to cope effectively, we need to have the opportunity to retreat to a place of peace and safety. That is best provided by the home environment.

The absence of this opportunity to recollect ourselves and decompress from the day's stresses could lead to dysfunctional behaviour to release said pressure. In addition, frayed nerves and pent-up frustrations may lead to irritability and open conflict.

That is why a healthy family environment is so important to our well-being.

Consider a child who experiences harassment from classmates and had a run-in with a teacher. She is grateful to escape from it all as she gets home.

However, she is greeted with a long tirade by her parents listing her failings and belittling her. By the grace of God, that child might have a healthy self-image able to withstand this unrelenting pressure. But that is not often the case.

In a state of relative immaturity, that child might wilt under the pressure and come to the conclusion that the world is hostile towards her and that in turn may trigger dysfunctional reactions.

Replay that scenario with a different script:

She comes home, and immediately her parents recognise that something is wrong. They give her some space to gather herself then lovingly explore the day's events. They are supportive and their insights provide practical solutions for some of the challenges that she faced that day.

That child develops a sense that life will have its challenges, but she is not alone in facing them, and there are effective ways of dealing with issues that arise.

One scenario prods the child into dysfunction, while the other, with a sense that they are able to cope. The other approach produces a grounded child who understands what life has to offer and appreciates the fact that with her support mechanism, she can effectively deal with difficulties.

This example has deeper national implications.

When a family environment is combative, unforgiving, and unsupportive, the tendency is to prompt members to react in dysfunctional ways. That is the kind of environment which could lead to a situation in which a young man gets killed by his own brother in a dispute over a bath soap.

The high incidents of domestic violence is not consistent with healthy, supportive, forgiving families. We need to make a concerted effort to give individuals - from infancy up - the security of feeling that they belong and are loved. That they will never be without empowering and forgiving support.

If we make that a reality across families, we will experience a level of peaceful coexistence that will be transformational.

However, healthy, supportive family environments do more than avert confrontations and violence. Most of us have compelling dreams and aspirations. In our ideal world, we would be something other than we are today. Unfortunately, many have failed to pursue their dreams because of a lack of support from family members. Like David before his battle with Goliath, some experience active discouragement from siblings.

Changing the dynamics in our families will unquestionably bring about a transformation at the individual, societal, and national levels. At the risk of being politically incorrect, we can see differences in ethnic groups that are tightly knit and protective of their members and those that are not.

It is no secret that teams characterised by high trust, empathy, unselfishness, respect, and shared objectives, consistently deliver high performance. The same applies to families that display similar characteristics.

Make every effort to come share and learn at the St Andrew Church of Christ's Annual Family Workshop - Holy Childhood, May 28, 9 - 4. FREE. Come make a difference. This could transform lives.

- Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy which is accredited to offer Professional Development Credits by the Society For Human Resource Management for their CP and SCP certifications.