Supporting Parents’ vital role
The aim of Child Protection week is to engage the community in protecting children through supporting their families. The Catholic Church is one community which is uniquely placed to be highly effective in that task – if only we would take seriously what we teach about the role of parents.
The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children – a fact which is supported by the social sciences. The church also teaches that parents are uniquely ‘ordained’ to be effective in this role, just as priest is ordained to be effective in his.
Sometimes, in our desire to help, those of us working within Church agencies can unwittingly make parents feel unqualified or inadequate. There is always a danger of ‘professionlising’ parenting within our institutions to the point that parents feel tempted to relinquish responsibility for their God given role.
A vital task then, is to witness to parents the great dignity of their vocation and to give them confidence that family life, despite its messiness, is the optimal environment in which to grow well rounded and happy human beings. Parents need to be encouraged they do ‘have what it takes”. We need to communicate to parents that ‘God believes in you and so do we’.
Apart from our extensive education system we are really only making baby steps as an Archdiocese in pastorally supporting parents in their vital role as first educators. One initiative of the Marriage, Family & Relationships team has been providing assistance to parents in guiding their children through the sometimes uncertain transition years of puberty.
Schools can invite us to run an evening in which parents and children together receive helpful information about the changes about to take place. We try to create plenty of opportunities for parents to share with their children their own knowledge and experience of growing up and for the children to share how they feel about what they are learning.
Some parents want to know what the exact content of the evening will be and we happily share all the materials we will be using with the parents ahead of time. We encourage parents to ask as many questions as they need to. We also supply parents with a take home pack of recommended resources so that they can continue the conversations at home.
Helping parents negotiate the uncertain and sometimes dangerous waters of social media and unsavoury online content is another area we making some inroads into.
There is no doubt that the role of parenting in the current environment is becoming a more demanding and complex task. But parents are usually still best placed to assist their own children. Our task as a Church community is to provide as many supports and resources as we can to parents and to communicate in word and action that “we believe in you and are here to support you”