Esther Tyson, Contributor
A Happy New Year to all Jamaica! I pray that 2013 will find us being more at peace with ourselves and with each other. We have many difficulties facing us as a nation, but we have overcome before and we will overcome again with the help of God.
To begin this New Year, I wish to focus our attention on one of the most important ingredients to creating a stable society: the family. In order to have a stable family, we must have committed parents. As someone has said, we have to earn a license to drive a car but not to be a parent.
So many persons become parents because they have sex, not because they want to, or are prepared to be parents. For example, there are so many young mothers who are lost as to how to bring up a child and need guidance. Drs Barry Davidson and Faith Linton have written a book for Jamaicans that meet this need - Answers to Questions Parents Ask.
So many books on parenting are set in a North American context, but this book is written for Jamaicans by Jamaicans. Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, in the foreword summarises the focus of the book in the following words:
"Faith and Barry have ensured that all aspects of parenting are comprehensively addressed, from the pre-natal stage to the teenage years. Age-old parent-child challenges of time management are included, as well as modern concerns of sexuality and the use of electronic media. The authors tackle areas of parenting which challenge Jamaican cultural and religious beliefs, including single parenting and discipline. On the other hand, there are also references to the Bible, as a typical and integral aspect of the upbringing of Jamaican children."
The authors in the introduction describe the context that this book addresses.
Single parenting in the Caribbean
Single parenting has, for generations, been a major feature of some Caribbean societies. Over the years, we have had good reason to applaud our single parents. The challenges of their lonely task have often served to bring out in them, inner resources of self-sacrifice, perseverance, energy and enterprise, by which they have blessed their children.
At the same time, single parenting is not an ideal situation, as many of the most successful single parents would agree. Yet, there are several communities in the Caribbean where a stable, committed union of father and mother, is more the exception than the rule. In too many cases, childbearing and child-rearing are no longer seen as closely connected responsibilities, to be undertaken seriously by two mature parents working together. Young males and females are growing up with the aim and desire to produce a child, but with a rather limited understanding of what it takes to nurture and train up that child.
In spite of the fact that single parenting is the reality that faces us as a Caribbean region, it does not negate the fact that the child that is brought up by both mother and father in a stable home environment is given an advantage in his or her development. The book, while dealing with single parenting, therefore, holds up ideal of both mother and father parenting a child and the effect that this has on the child's development.
The authors address the importance of the father's role in the life of a child even before birth. They make the point that when a father participates in the birth process and is one of the first persons to hold his child, that he is likely to become more involved with the child from the start. They make note that studies have shown that the father's involvement with the child has a positive effect on the child's early development. This is always better for the child. This involvement of the father is important even before the child is born. A pregnant woman who has the full support of her partner is more likely to be contented and relaxed, as well as pleased and excited about the pregnancy with positive benefit to the child.
A mother or a father who is absent during the first six years of the child's life loses the opportunity to be the main influence in the child's growth and development, not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually, morally and spiritually as well.
They go on to show the impact that the relationship of both father and mother has on the development of the child's intellect and character.
Throughout the book, they use real-life situations to illustrate the points that they seek to make. This makes reading easy and enjoyable. For example, in dealing with being a successful single parent, they use the story of Rita, who as a single mother, was successful because of the following:
1. She was well-informed and understood what young children needed in order to develop properly.
2. She made a serious effort to find persons who could be a father figure to her boys.
3. She put trust and confidence in God and relied on Him to direct her, and to provide for and meet her personal needs.
The last point that I will make from the book deals with the importance of relationship and firmness. The importance of these two areas is summed up in the following way: Firmness without relationship leads to rebellion; Relationship plus firmness produces a positive response. Our children need to have these two factors included in how we raise them as parents. The tendency to overindulge or to be too harsh and abusive has led to a society with too many undisciplined, rebellious, angry and self-destructive youth.
This book can help us as a society to learn how to parent. Through reading it and following its guidelines, we can begin to improve our parenting practices as a people and, hopefully, be able to pass the test as parents and earn the parenting licence. What an impact that would have on our society! We would see the benefits, socially, spiritually, intellectually and economically.
Esther Tyson is an educator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.