In Orthodox circles, it is often heard that the meaning of creating a family is childbearing, and for those who cannot have children, there is only one way – to the monastery. Is a child the point of a family? Is it right if he becomes its center? What principle should family relations be based on? We asked these questions Archpriest Alexander Khvorost, rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr John the Warrior of Druzhkovka, and his wife Julia, a psychologist and Sunday school teacher.
A healthy family is when mom and dad are happy with each other, and their children are happy to be next to them.
Archpriest Alexander Khvorost:
A child cannot and should not be the center and point of a family. The family, so to speak, was invented by the Lord, and God’s plan for man is realized in it. Let us recall the words of Genesis: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”. Later, these words were repeated by Christ. This is the meaning of the family, when two – husband and wife – become one, bodily and spiritually.
In the family, unity is important. People get closer to each other because of love, in the family this love is multiplied. Saint John Chrysostom taught that the Lord established a family so that we learn how to love. Only in the family format it is possible to fulfil the commandment “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22-39). The Apostle Paul teaches: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:28).
The birth and upbringing of children is very important function of the family, people through love bring new people into the world. Love is multiplied in the family – this is certainly important. But what happens if the emphasis is shifted? Often it is heard from spouses: “We live for the sake of our children!” This happens when the relationship between husband and wife practically does not develop, as a result, they live together and endure each other only for the sake of raising offspring. Such relations are doomed to collapse.
Children live in the family temporarily, on average twenty years. After that, they become independent, start earning money, create their own families and do not need parents. Then such parents simply lose the meaning of life. Why live together if children have grown up? Such a family crisis, as a rule, is superimposed on a midlife crisis; as a result, as statistics show, about 30% of families break up. Children are perplexed: they saw their parents, who lived in perfect harmony, never quarreled, and suddenly they are breaking up. The reason is that they lived only for the sake of their children, and their relationship did not develop. Their sympathy has died, while love for each other for some reason was not born into the family.
Husband and wife live in a family for each other to love, care, support, communicate. Children are the next step in order for their marital union to become more perfect.
Of course, parents must give maximum love to their children. It is unacceptable when they are engaged exclusively in their own relationships, and the children are abandoned. This is an imbalance that is not related to love. This often happens if a woman builds a new relationship, having children from a previous marriage. The opposite imbalance – she wants for child to have a father at all costs; then the emphasis should be on other thing: first of all, it is necessary that she has a husband. Healthy families without pathological problems are families where mom and dad are happy with each other, and their children are happy being next to them. They see the hierarchy established by God, where dad is the head, mom is his assistant, the children are obedient to their parents, and there is enough tenderness, warmth and care for everyone. This is harmony.
We need to pay attention to children, teach them everything that we can, transfer experience, and then everyone will be fine. Sometimes parents are so preoccupied with improving the material situation of their children that they forget to give them the most important thing: themselves and their attention. They have money, gadgets, clothes, but no attention, support, comfort in difficult situations. Parents need to do everything possible to avoid such mistakes.
Parents must have their own special relationship
In family life, there are times when a child really becomes its center. Often this happens after the birth of first child. It is only natural that a young mother is fully committed to caring for her baby. It is good if at this time the husband treats her with understanding: he does not take offense at the lack of attention, but, on the contrary, takes care of the baby together with her. Mom, in turn, must try to return to her husband and to relations with him in time, to find time for communication. Often, the child becomes the center of the family during an illness, especially severe one.
It’s great if the young parents have assistants — grandparents, relatives or friends of the family — so that mom and dad have the opportunity to spend at least some time together, without a child. This can be an ordinary walk, shopping, tea after putting children to bed or watching a movie together. It is important for husband and wife, as soon as children are present in the household, not to stop working on their relationship – after all, love itself does not appear in the family, it must be nurtured. Sympathy passes, but for the birth of love you need to make an effort.
For the normal development of children, it is important that they grow up in an atmosphere of love. According to psychologists, it is more important for a child to see love between parents than to receive it in excess from conflicting mothers and fathers.
One of the most common mistakes in families is when a woman switches to children in protracted conflicts with her husband. Every person wants love. If a woman does not receive it from her husband, she seeks to receive it from children, because they are a constant source of love and positive emotions. In addition, it is easier to get these emotions from them than from a husband with whom misunderstanding arose. However, one must try to be patient, make an effort, and pray in order to establish relations with the other half. This is very important, otherwise both children and adults will suffer.
The meaning of life, including family life, is the salvation of the soul. To save your souls, you need to learn how to build relationships with God, to love Him. Family is a school of love. Firstly, future spouses know each other and learn how to love. Then they get married, they have children – and they learn to love children. Children distract the husband and wife from each other, and this is very important, because if the spouses are self-involved, it will be difficult for them to learn to love someone else. The more children, the more love appears in the heart. Often spouses are afraid that they will not have enough love for everyone, but this is not true. Gradually, children will grow up, find their halves, parents will learn to love their chosen ones – and this is how love grows and multiplies.
It is important that the family has more than one child. When the baby is the only one, it is difficult for him not to be in the center of attention of parents. If there are at least two children, the attention of mom and dad is distributed between them. They are no longer the center of the family — rather, they form their own child subsystem separate from the parent subsystem — moreover: they can amuse each other, so that parents have the opportunity to spend some time together and communicate. As a result, it turns out that raising several children is easier than one.
In conclusion, I emphasize once again: the relationship between husband and wife must be constantly developed. And it should be exciting being together. One day children will grow up and leave their home, so spouses need to have their own special relationship, which they will continue to develop after children’s leaving.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds