Bernardo M. Villegas
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It All Begins at Home (Part 2)

          To meet the challenge of strengthening the family as the basic unit of society, fortunately there are a good number of private initiatives, both religious and secular, that are organizing parents, educators and community workers in the task of helping married couples in growing in their love for one another and in the upbringing of their respective children.  Although religious faith is a very important factor in these formative activities, it is also important to have a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Filipino family and the threats and opportunities that it faces in today’s challenging environment.  Thanks to its strong link to a think tank or a research institution, the Institute for Marriage and Family Development (IMFD) that is offering a certificate program on family life education has a wealth of data and information on the Filipino Family in the Twenty First Century.  Among other sources, it has access to two studies, one conducted in 2014-2015 and another in 2016-2017, in the National Capital Region and six other regions, as well as one city and two island provinces. These studies arrived at a family and youth profile that proved very useful to crafting appropriate interventions and teaching modules that will be the core content of the Certificate Program. 

         From these two studies of varied geographical and topical coverage, the following bottom line realities were confirmed:

         --There is great variation in family life and youth lifestyle across the country, particularly in a) family structure (whether living-in or cohabitation; married in church or civil rite; divorced, separated, or remarried; multi-family); and b) fidelity to faith and morals and in matters related to home life and chastity; although the majority of educators and youth surveyed still seem to be somehow coherent with traditional notions of family structure, family life, marriage, parenting, and values, and the environment in which they grew up.

         --As regards the role of two parents, while many young people are able to overcome the challenges of parental separation to heroic degrees, the scars of paternal or maternal infidelity, or worse, home mismanagement by both or one of the parents, remain for some time or carried over to their own major decisions with regard to friendships and relationships.

         --The young, from both private and public schools, regardless of age and income levels, do want to talk about their life situations with someone a) who can win their trust and confidence as regards ability and capacity in various youth situation management; b) who can be  palpably candid and open towards conversing about formative solutions to the challenges they face in  life; c) who clearly demonstrate affection, compassion, total fairness to persons, and keen analysis of life situations; and d) who can show genuine empathy and concern, while maintaining authority and moral ascendancy with no personal stakes other than real friendship.

         While the persons to whom the young persons open up generally are their peers or slightly older persons, even much older persons possessing the above qualities to an outstanding degree can exert great influence on the day-to-day decisions of the young.  An emerging conclusion, derived from conversations and focused group discussion rather than from surveys, is that there is great need for follow-up through peer and adult mentoring and coaching conversations, preferably in an “unofficial” capacity, to ensure a deeper understanding by students (and teachers/parents) of principles and norms of life and firmer resolutions to act in the right way.  There is, therefore, a great need to form a pool of youthful mentors and life coaches who can effectively accompany educators and the youth over time in the latter’s journey to truth and responsible decision making.

         The survey conducted among the young revealed the following:  a)  The majority have not had sex (crucial is age 16 for males, 17 for females); b) Intimacies, however, have gone up and there is great ignorance about the real dangers; c) Activities with friends indicated decrease in healthy peer relationships; d) The youth want to know more about human sexuality and procreation; e) Family discussion on sexuality topic is minimal; f) Females are more sensitive than males to sexuality issues; g) Abstinence aspiration is strong, but few feel they have the necessary capabilities; h) The majority have positive future life goals; and i) Media is perceived to be less helpful in attaining life goals. 

         The Focus Group Discussion (FGD) arrived at the following major family challenges to family well-being:  a) Depression and consequent alcohol and drug abuse; b) Pre-marital sex and intimacies, teenage pregnancies, teenage mothers; c) Family break-up, separation, “divorce”, and “remarriage”; d) Social media influence on notion of family and practices of family life; e) Cohabitation and living-together without church marriage.  To these challenges, the following solutions were proposed to parents:  a) Improve communication between husband and wife; b) Greater understanding of rational and developmental psychology from infancy to adolescence; c) Management of children according to individual differences; d) Management of use of social media in the home; e) Coherence of education in virtues in the home; f) Engagement of children in wholesome leisure and entertainment (e.g. sports and arts); g) Education in human sexuality and preparation for courtship and marriage.

         For teachers, the following were proposed:  a) Greater understanding of rational and developmental psychology from infancy to adolescence; b) Aim at integral education of children; c) Strengthen Parents Teachers Association (PTA) to ensure close collaboration between home and school; d) Achieve unity of criteria in education in virtue between home and school; e) Teachers should complement the primary work of parents in educating children in human sexuality; f) Ensure the preservation of family-related traditions, local culture and heritage; g) Ensure coherence and unity in school life.  Additional concerns among the lower-income groups (Classes D and E) include encouraging parents to do family budgeting and to the extent possible, venture into some small business; sensitivity to health concerns and healthcare referrals; and educating parents on how to enable their children to deal with special cases of human sexuality (e.g. sexual abuse, protecting privacy, avoiding sexual intimacies and knowing how to handle neighbor relations).  (To be continued).