Marriage, the family unit, was the “original Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.” — Michael Novak
Since all my articles for this site in 2014 dealt with marriage, I promised myself that I would not do an article on marriage this year—then I saw this quote. There are a lot of ways to look at the family unit, but I found this quote profound.
We all want our marriages to be healthy, and our families to flourish. From the moment we first hold our newborn babies in our arms, we are connected to them in a way we could not even imagine until they were born. We promise them and ourselves that we will do everything possible to protect them and help them make their lives meaningful. No bond is stronger than that which exists between parents and children.
Department of Health
A good marriage protects the health of all members of the family unit, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When functioning properly, the family unit will produce well-rounded children who care about each other and work together for the benefit of all. That doesn’t mean that there will not be differences of opinion, arguments, and some very bad days. It does mean that when push comes to shove, they all stand up for each other against the world.
Children should feel safe and loved within the confines of their home. They need to know that whatever happens in the outside world, their family will always be there to stand beside them and support them. They need a healthy environment in order to become healthy individuals.
Department of Education
Teach your children. Talk to them. Read to them. Discuss current events with them. This begins from the day they are born. Don’t wait until they are teenagers to discuss things with them because by that time, they are not in any mood to begin to listen. If you begin talking to them when they are little, they will learn to trust that you care about their opinions and feelings. Make sure all discussion is open-minded, and that all opinions count. Sometimes play devil’s advocate and make them defend their positions. This is how they learn.
No matter how good your child’s school is, it cannot make up for the lack of conversation and learning that should happen in the home. The home should be the best classroom children will ever enter, and the parents should be the ultimate of teachers. We are ultimately responsible for our children’s education. Schools can teach basic learning, but parents teach eternal principles.
Make sure that the Department of Education includes you and your spouse. Learning is a life-long process. Life’s lessons will help you to help your children. Never stop learning.
Department of Welfare
The family unit needs protection from anything that could harm it. It is the responsibility of the parents to see that basic needs of the children are met—but it goes much further than that. Parents need to protect their children from anything that could cause harm to their emotional or spiritual well being. We can’t protect our children from the world, but we can arm them with the tools to protect themselves from those things which would destroy their divine nature. We must teach our children the power of prayer, and how to find answers to their questions in the scriptures.
The three categories, health, education, and welfare work together as one department with a lot of overlap. Healthy relationships are achieved through education and communication. The welfare of our children depends upon the education parents give them about the world, and spiritual things. Spiritual health comes from parents educating their children in how to feel, understand, and listen to the Holy Ghost. All of these things work together for the good of the family unit.
How Do We Make Good Families?
Twenty years ago, The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) introduced an amazingly prophetic document entitled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” One of my favorite paragraphs of the proclamation is below.
HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, lds.org/topics).
Marriage is ordained of God, and the family unit is eternal. We will be held accountable before God in our responsibilities to our marriage and our children. We must not take those responsibilities lightly. Children deserve a father and a mother who righteously guide children back to Heavenly Father. We can only do that if we work on our marriages constantly to see that they remain healthy. We make good families by taking marriage and the family unit seriously.
Marriage is hard work, and raising children is even harder. Nobody said it was going to be easy. If we turn tail and run at the first argument, we do our children and society a great disservice. Heavenly Father has given us this great gift of marriage and eternal family units. Do not take your marriage and children for granted. Work with all your might to see that you all sit around a family table together eternally.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.