Work to Preserve Your Family Into God’s New World
“You yourself, O Jehovah, will guard them; you will preserve each one from this generation to time indefinite.”—PSALM 12:7.
1, 2. (a) How are some families faring under the pressures of the last days? (b) How may Christian families seek to survive?
“TODAY my heart is filled with joy!” exclaimed one Christian elder named John. The cause of this exuberance? “My 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter were baptized,” he relates. But his joy did not end there. “My 17-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter have both been auxiliary pioneers this past year,” he adds.
2 Many families in our midst are having similarly fine results as they apply Bible principles. Some, though, are experiencing problems. “We have five children,” writes one Christian couple, “and it has grown progressively harder to deal with them. We have already lost one child to this old system. Our young teenagers seem to be Satan’s primary field of attack right now.” There are also couples who are experiencing severe marital strife, at times resulting in separation or divorce. Nevertheless, families that cultivate Christian qualities may survive the “great tribulation” and be preserved into God’s coming new world. (Matthew 24:21; 2 Peter 3:13) What, then, can you do to ensure the preservation of your family?
3, 4. (a) How important is communication in family life, and why do problems with it often arise? (b) Why should husbands strive to be good listeners?
3 Good communication is the lifeblood of a healthy family; when it is lacking, tension and stress increase. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” says Proverbs 15:22. Interestingly, a marriage counselor reports: “The most familiar complaint I hear from wives I counsel is ‘He won’t talk to me,’ and ‘He doesn’t listen to me.’ And when I share this complaint with their husbands, they don’t hear me, either.”
4 What causes a lack of communication? For one thing, men and women are different, and they often have noticeably different communication styles. One article noted that a husband “tends to be direct and practical” in his conversations, whereas “what [a wife] wants more than anything else is an empathetic listener.” If this presents a problem in your marriage, work at improving matters. A Christian husband may need to work hard at becoming a better listener. “Every man,” says James, “must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.” (James 1:19) Learn to refrain from ordering, admonishing, or lecturing when your wife simply wants “fellow feeling.” (1 Peter 3:8) “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge,” says Proverbs 17:27.
5. What are some ways husbands can improve in expressing their thoughts and feelings?
5 On the other hand, there is “a time to speak,” and you may need to learn to be more expressive of your thoughts and feelings. (Ecclesiastes 3:7) For example, are you generous with praise for your wife’s accomplishments? (Proverbs 31:28) Do you show yourself thankful for the hard work she does in supporting you and caring for the household? (Compare Colossians 3:15.) Or perhaps you need to improve in making verbal “expressions of endearment.” (Song of Solomon 1:2) Doing so may seem awkward to you at first, but it can go a long way toward making your wife feel secure in your love for her.
6. What can wives do to improve family communication?
6 What about Christian wives? One wife is quoted as saying that her husband knows that she appreciates him, so it is not necessary for her to say it to him. However, men also thrive on appreciation, commendation, and praise. (Proverbs 12:8) Do you need to be more expressive in this regard? On the other hand, perhaps you need to pay more attention to how you listen. If your husband finds it difficult to discuss his problems, fears, or anxieties openly, have you learned how to draw him out, kindly and tactfully?
7. What can cause marital quarrels to erupt, and how can they be prevented?
7 Of course, even couples who normally get along well may occasionally experience a breakdown in communication. Emotion may overshadow reason, or a calm discussion may quickly turn into a heated argument. (Proverbs 15:1) “We all stumble many times”; a marital spat hardly spells the end of a marriage, however. (James 3:2) But “screaming and abusive speech” are inappropriate and destructive to any relationship. (Ephesians 4:31) Be quick about making peace when hurtful words have been exchanged. (Matthew 5:23, 24) Quarrels can often be prevented in the first place if both of you apply Paul’s words at Ephesians 4:26: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.” Yes, talk out problems while they are small and manageable; do not wait until your emotions have reached the flash point. Spending a few minutes each day discussing matters of concern can do much to foster communication and prevent misunderstandings.
‘The Mental-Regulating of Jehovah’
8. Why may some youths drift away from the truth?
8 It appears that some parents are content to allow their children to drift along. The children attend meetings and have some share in field service, but often they have not built up their own relationship with God. In time “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes” could lead many of such youths away from the truth. (1 John 2:16) How sad it would be for parents to survive Armageddon but because of past neglect leave their children behind as casualties!
9, 10. (a) What does bringing up children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” involve? (b) Why is it important to allow children to express their feelings freely?
9 Paul thus wrote: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) To do so, you must be thoroughly acquainted with Jehovah’s standards yourself. You ought to set a proper example when it comes to such things as your choice of entertainment, personal study, meeting attendance, and field service. Paul’s words also imply that a parent must (1) be an astute observer of his children and that he (2) maintain good communication with them. Only then can you know wherein they need “mental-regulating.”
10 It is natural for adolescents to strive for a measure of independence. However, you must be alert to clear-cut signs of worldly influence in their speech, thinking, dress and grooming, and choice of friends. A wise father said as recorded at Proverbs 23:26: “My son, do give your heart to me.” Do your children feel free to share their thoughts and feelings with you? When children do not fear immediate censure, they may be more prone to reveal how they really feel about such matters as extracurricular activities, dating, higher education, or Bible truth itself.
11, 12. (a) How may mealtimes be used to promote family communication? (b) What may result from a parent’s persistent efforts to promote communication with his children?
11 In many lands it is customary for families to eat together. Thus the dinner meal can provide a fine opportunity for all family members to share upbuilding conversation. All too often the family meal is crowded out by TV and other distractions. For hours on end, though, your children have been virtually held hostage in school and exposed to worldly thinking. Mealtimes are a good time to communicate with your children. “We use mealtime to talk about things that came up during the day,” says a parent. Still, mealtimes need not become embarrassing disciplinary sessions or cross-examinations. Keep the occasion relaxed and enjoyable!
12 Getting children to open up to you is challenging and may require infinite patience. In time, though, you may see heartwarming results. “Our 14-year-old son had been depressed and withdrawn,” recalls a concerned mother. “By means of our prayers and persistence, he is starting to open up and talk!”
Family Study That Upbuilds
13. Why is early training of children so important, and how may it be accomplished?
13 “Mental-regulating” also includes formal instruction in God’s Word. As with Timothy, such training should begin “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Early training strengthens children for tests of faith that may come during the school years—birthday celebrations, patriotic ceremonies, or religious holidays. Without preparation for such tests, a child’s faith may be crushed. So take advantage of the tools the Watch Tower Society has prepared for small children, such as the books Listening to the Great Teacher and My Book of Bible Stories.*
14. How can family study be kept regular, and what have you done to have a regular family study?
14 Another area for attention is family study, which can easily lapse into irregularity or become a dull, mechanical affair that is trialsome to both parents and children. How can you improve matters? First, you must ‘buy out time’ for the study, not allowing it to be crowded out by TV shows or other diversions. (Ephesians 5:15-17) “We had difficulty keeping our family study regular,” confesses one family head. “We tried different times until we finally found a time slot a little later in the evening that worked for us. Now our family study is regular.”
15. How can you tailor your family study to the needs of your family?
15 Next, consider the particular needs of your family. Many families enjoy preparing their weekly Watchtower lesson together. From time to time, though, your family may have specific issues that need to be discussed, including problems being faced in school. The book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work and articles from The Watchtower and Awake! can fill this need. “If we pick up on any attitudes on the part of our boys that need correcting,” says a father, “we zero in on the particular chapter in the Young People Ask book that covers it.” His wife adds: “We try to be flexible. If we have something planned for our study, and the need arises to discuss something else, then we change according to the need.”
16. (a) How can you be sure your children understand what they are learning? (b) What should usually be avoided in conducting a family study?
16 How can you make sure that your children really understand what they are learning? The Master Teacher, Jesus, asked viewpoint questions, such as, “What do you think?” (Matthew 17:25) By doing the same, try to find out what your children really think. Encourage each child to answer in his or her own words. Of course, if you overreact to their honest expressions with anger or shock, they may think twice about being open with you again. So remain calm. Avoid turning the family study into a forum for chastisement. It should be enjoyable, upbuilding. “If I discover that one of my children has a problem,” says one father, “I’ll deal with it at another time.” “When the child is dealt with separately,” adds a mother, “the child is not as embarrassed and is apt to talk more freely than if counseled during the family study.”
17. What can be done to make family study interesting, and what has worked well for your family?
17 Getting children to participate in a family study can be a challenge, especially when you are dealing with children of different ages. Younger children may tend to be fidgety, restless, or manifest a short attention span. What can you do? Try to keep the atmosphere of the study relaxed. If your children have short attention spans, try shorter sessions but more frequent ones. It also helps if you are enthusiastic. “He that presides, let him do it in real earnest.” (Romans 12:8) Keep everyone involved. Smaller children may be able to comment on the illustrations or to answer simple questions. Teenagers may be asked to do additional research or to make practical application of the material under consideration.
18. How can parents inculcate God’s Word on every occasion, and with what result?
18 Do not limit spiritual instruction to one hour a week, however. Inculcate God’s Word in your children on every occasion. (Deuteronomy 6:7) Take the time to listen to them. Exhort and console them when necessary. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:11.) Be compassionate and merciful. (Psalm 103:13; Malachi 3:17) Doing so, you will ‘find pleasure’ in your children and support their preservation into God’s new world.—Proverbs 29:17.
“A Time to Laugh”
19, 20. (a) What role does recreation play in family life? (b) What are some ways in which parents can arrange for recreation for their family?
19 There is “a time to laugh . . . , a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) The Hebrew word for “laugh” may also be translated by such expressions as “celebrate,” “play,” “make sport,” or even “have a good time.” (2 Samuel 6:21; Job 41:5; Judges 16:25; Exodus 32:6; Genesis 26:8) Play can serve a beneficial purpose, and it is important to children and youths. In Bible times parents arranged entertainment and recreation for their families. (Compare Luke 15:25.) Do you do the same?
20 “We take advantage of public parks,” says a Christian husband. “We’ll invite some of the young brothers and have a ball game and a picnic. They have a good time and enjoy wholesome association.” Adds another parent: “We plan things to do with our boys. We go swimming, play ball, take vacations. But we keep entertainment in its proper place. I stress the need to keep a balance.” Wholesome recreation, such as appropriate gatherings or trips to zoos and museums, can do much to prevent a child from being attracted to the world’s pleasures.
21. How can parents prevent their children from feeling deprived because of not celebrating worldly holidays?
21 It is also important that your children not feel deprived because they do not celebrate birthdays or unchristian holidays. With some organization on your part, they can look forward to many enjoyable times throughout the year. Why, a good parent does not need some holiday as an excuse for expressing his love in a material way. Like his heavenly Father, he ‘knows how to give good gifts to his children’—spontaneously.—Matthew 7:11.
Securing an Eternal Future for Your Family
22, 23. (a) As the great tribulation approaches, of what can God-fearing families be assured? (b) What can families do in working toward preservation into God’s new world?
22 The psalmist prayed: “You yourself, O Jehovah, will guard them; you will preserve each one from this generation to time indefinite.” (Psalm 12:7) Pressure from Satan is sure to increase—especially against families of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, it is possible to withstand this ever-increasing attack. With Jehovah’s help and fierce determination and hard work on the part of husbands, wives, and children, families—including your family—can have the hope of being preserved alive during the great tribulation.
23 Husbands and wives, bring peace and harmony to your marriage by fulfilling your God-assigned roles. Parents, continue setting a proper example for your children, buying out the time to give them the training and discipline they so sorely need. Talk to them. Listen to them. Their lives are at stake! Children, listen to and obey your parents. With Jehovah’s help you can succeed and secure yourselves an eternal future in God’s coming new world.
Audiocassettes are also available in some languages.
Do You Remember?
□ How can husbands and wives improve their communication?
□ How can parents raise children in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah”? (Ephesians 6:4)
□ What are some ways to make family study upbuilding and more interesting?
□ What might parents do in arranging recreation and entertainment for their families?
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Music—A Powerful Influence
Says the author of a book on child rearing: “If I were to stand in front of an audience . . . and advocate drunken orgies, getting high on cocaine, pot, or any of the other mind-bending drugs, they would look at me in stunned astonishment. . . . [Yet] parents often provide their children with money to buy records or cassette recordings that openly advocate those things.” (Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, by Zig Ziglar) In the United States, for example, sexually explicit rap lyrics are on the lips of many youths. Are you helping your children to be selective in their choice of music so that they avoid such demonic snares?
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Mealtimes can be enjoyable occasions that promote family unity and communication