Whose Children Are They


Whose Children Are They?

by Archpriest Joseph Purpura

If we are interested in bringing young people into a relationship with Christ, then we must ask the question, "who is raising OUR children." Certainly from a moral and ethical perspective we need to look at who and what is molding our young people's beliefs. Is it the media, the schools, parents, clergy, the Church through youth groups and church school, their friends, or other adults? From a recent survey conducted on teens of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese the answer appears to be, "all of the above," - at least some of the time. The next questions ought to be: who do we want to be molding the moral and ethical fiber of our young people, and where do we want them to seek their answers?

If our answer is that it ought to be us as parents, then we need to communicate with our children and young adults on these important issues. A survey, conducted by the Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Youth Ministry in 1999 of 790 Orthodox Christian teens, tells us that while a number of parents are talking to their Middle School and High School Students, too many are not.

According to this survey of Orthodox Christian Teens, the following percent of parents have spoken to their teens on the issues listed below:

My Parents have spoken to me concerning their feelings on:

 

Yes

 

Pre-marital Sexual Relations

69%

Birth Control

38%

Abortion

59%

Euthanasia

34%

Homosexuality

63%

Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases

65%

Marriage

71%

Fidelity in Marriage

64%

Dating

81%

By 7th grade most school systems have already spoken to our children through formal health classes and other venues on these issues. Many teens watch television shows, and movies at the theaters, that involve all of the behaviors listed above. Most teens speak with their peers about these issues and often seek answers from one another. Studies done across North America, including our own, show that High School and even Middle School Students already have opinions formed on these issues and in some cases engage in many of the behaviors listed above. While, on average, two-thirds of parents speak to their children on these issues, many of our teens are receiving information and forming opinions with or without parental input.

As a parent, I see it as my role to educate, dress and feed my children, who have been gifted (loaned) to me by God, the very best I can. Just as importantly, God also expects, and I expect of myself as a parent, to equip my children to discern between what is right and wrong behavior in their everyday life. As a parent I have a choice; I can remain silent and let my children form their moral and ethical values based on whatever they pickup along the way, or I can take an active role in the development of my children and help educate and mold their beliefs. Rarely, is there such thing as children and teens forming their own independent opinion on any of these issues. All of us form our beliefs based on the input of our experiences and what others share with us. So, as a parent, the choice is: do I help my children form their values, or do I leave it to others to do so without my input. Many parents have shared with me the fact that they do not feel they can speak to their child on some of the issues for fear that their teen will ask what they did as a teen or as an adult on these very issues. I offer the following: If I love my child and I know that I have made a mistake in my life and I know how painful that mistake was, how much more I as a loving parent should want to better equip my child to not make the same mistake. At the very least, I should want my child to be better equipped to make his or her decisions than perhaps I was.

Parents need to communicate with their children early in life and on a continuing basis. Whether we want it or not, our children are exposed at a very young age to most of society’s issues and problems. While we try our best to shield them from as much harm as possible, we still need to equip them to handle these issues for the time when they will be confronted by them. If we want to equip our children to discern between right and wrong behavior, then we need to communicate what is acceptable and what is not. To leave our children to figure it all out on their own is to put them at great risk and in fact to turn over their moral and ethical upbringing to whomever and whatever enters into their lives.

Parents should take courage in knowing that their teens want their parents involved in their life and in fact our teens rate their parents as the number one influence in their lives. When asked who they would turn if struggling with certain issues "Parents" was the number one response for the following issues:

  • If I had a question about sex
  • If I were deciding what to do with my life
  • If I was deciding whether it was right or wrong to have an abortion
  • If some of my friends started using alcohol or other drugs
  • If I were having trouble in school
  • If I were struggling with moral or ethical issues

94% of the teens said that they get along "fairly well to very well" with their parents. 72% percent of teens say their parents’ involvement in their life is just right, while another 7% wish their parents were more involved, 20% said their parents were too involved. When it came to discipline, 71% of teens said their parents were just right with them, while 27% said their parents were too strict and 2% said their parents were not strict enough.

Teens gave their parents very high marks when asked if their parents have discussed the following with them:

My parents have discussed with me their feelings about:

Yes

their religious faith

86%

Issues concerning our Church

88%

Issues concerning the World

81%

Issues concerning me

94%

Family problems and interests

89%

My school day

82%

My school

96%

Truthfulness

96%

Lying

94%

Stealing

85%

The Church, her scriptures, theology, liturgy, life and community stand as a source of strength and knowledge in all that we do in life. Parents are encouraged to join with other Orthodox Parents, their Pastors and Church Community to further explore these issues in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ, which stand as a source of Life. As parents we need not be alone in our struggle to raise good moral and ethical children in today's world.