“Lord, May everything we do begin with your inspiration, continue with your help and reach perfection under your guidance.” This short prayer was given to me by a dear old man who has made 100s of copies and distributed them to families, in particular young married couples. I think it is just as relevant on the many levels of family life, from the precious little ones to the precious elderlies and even the precious teens with our love-hate relationships.
“Good beginnings matter” is MARFAM’s January theme under the bigger umbrella theme “Every Family Matters.” So at the beginning of the year there are many beginnings, new job, new school, new class, new teacher, new friends, new scary things. I can remember many years ago when some of my own children were starting nursery school how frightened they were and two of them in fact didn’t even want to stay. They wanted mommy and daddy and their security blanket. A strange environment and also a strange language can be highly intimidating for littlies who might speak a whole range of languages at home. The local media has been full of accusations of racism because black and white children were grouped separately at one school on their first few days at what is still baby school. Maybe it is not racism but sensitivity on the part of the teacher. Maybe it is an obsession with race that is bedevilling too many issues unnecessarily.
An article in CIE Catholic Education magazine, “Supporting Language Learning in the Classroom: the Role of the Teacher” highlights the fact that many of these littlies do not have a solid language foundation at all. One of the most important tasks is for the teacher to work with families, be it a nuclear family with siblings, single parent and one child, grandparent or carer. The article gives some useful guidelines applicable to Early Child Development, (ECD) a need that is often raised at this time of the year but ones that can be adapted for all families.
- Talk to and with the children, asking open-ended questions rather than talking at
- Encourage a love of reading by reading to them at first, ideally stories in their own mother tongue or English. Provide them with suitable books.
- Discourage too much screen time, TV, computer, I-pad, cellphones etc. Expressive language development is delayed through watching rather than talking about what is going on. Children’s radio e.g. Nali-Bali and TV programmes, other than the dozens of animated cartoons, can be much more educational with longer term learning benefits.
- Teach and encourage learning through songs and rhymes. Children love to move and dance and speech and language are rhythmic and are very valuable in developing language skills. Today one can ask if our children know nursery rhymes and simple songs in various languages or are they hooked into the more mature popsongs with messages that may leave much to be desired.
Many ECD programmes exist across the country. I discovered an interesting initiative. A group of women in the KZN Midlands has developed a Waste 2 Toys programme using plastic containers and paper waste to make toys that promote motor development. Workshops are held for teachers and carers, often grannies maybe looking after a number of grandchildren. Parents, including young teenage moms and dads should be encouraged to be involved with their little ones too on a fun and educational level. They are the most precious resource of all for one another.
Precious little is done in many families to develop its spirituality which is for the whole family and for every age. It does quite often begin with little ones saying a little prayer at mealtimes but shouldn’t end there. Reading and telling Bible stories, colouring in pictures, praying and faith and life sharing as a family can be begun at this time of the year.
On Sunday the Church celebrated the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. A family can have fun looking up baby pictures, baptism pictures and talking about godparents. We can all take time to reflect on our own baptismal calling as families. Didn’t Jesus have a particular love for little ones? Are we not called to lead our precious little ones to love Jesus too? And Mary, Joseph and what about some favourite saints? TR FAMILY WEEKLY 16 January.