You’ve likely heard the saying “family first” more often than you can count. Why is this saying so popular? Why are families so important that we’ve all heard and probably said this phrase before?
In the most basic sense, the family is essential because it sustains society while fulfilling God’s purposes.
Parents provide the basic physical necessities and emotional care for their children, and society relies on families to care for its members and uphold its laws by teaching moral values. In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which represents Mormon beliefs on marriage and family, we learn that God expects parents to love, care for, and provide for their children’s physical and spiritual needs, while teaching them to be law-abiding citizens and to obey God’s commandments.
Fulfilling Traditional Family Roles
In many ways, the traditional roles of father and mother have benefitted societies. The traditional role of fathers in the home involves men financially providing for and protecting their family. They are also called to preside over their families in love and righteousness.
Traditionally, mothers have been the caretakers of the home. They bear and raise the children, focusing on their emotional development. Mothers have also been primarily responsible for making sure the home functions smoothly each day—kids make it to school and practices, everyone is fed, the house is clean, and so on.
But what is considered traditional doesn’t work for every family today. Fathers and mothers may both work outside of the home in some families, while in others the mother might be the one who works outside of the home. And in many of today’s homes, both parents share the roles of financially sustaining their family while also sharing the child raising, household duties, and other day-to-day functions at home.
Whatever their individual responsibilities, in their role as parents, mothers and fathers are equal partners. Parents should help and support each other as they work together to fulfill their sacred responsibilities. They are the leaders, the family executives, the examples, while children follow their parents’ leadership and house rules.
Building a Strong Family
What matters most for building strong families, no matter individual roles or circumstances, is that all family members help each other to succeed.
So what helps families to succeed? Social scientists emphasize the importance of the following six characteristics:
1. Appreciation: In the Bible, Jesus stated simply that we must “love one another” (John 13:34). Appreciation is actively showing love and gratitude for family members.
2. Commitment: Those who believe and follow the family first model are firmly committed to their family. In good and bad times, which all families have, parents and children in strong families remain loyal to each other.
3. Effective Communication: Every good relationship depends on each person’s willingness to openly, honestly, and frequently talk with each other. Members of strong families talk respectfully and kindly to each other and offer a listening ear when someone needs one.
4. Problem Solving: Strong families turn to their family members for love, support, and answers to problems. They work together to resolve emotional, economic, and spiritual challenges.
5. Spiritual Well-Being: Family members strengthen each other when they follow God’s teachings and the example of Jesus Christ. Being spiritually minded fosters love and empathy in individuals.
6. Time Together: Frequent quality family time is one of the best ways to strengthen a family. Most children would rather spend a weekend camping in their backyard with their family than getting a new tablet or going on a lavish vacation.
Strong family units provide the necessities of life such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. But more important, in strong, functional families we learn how to love and accept love, be effective communicators, and be responsible citizens. We learn the values of honesty, integrity, sincerity, humility, and hard work.
Strong families are so important because without them, we wouldn’t have successful people or societies.