How family members care for each other



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“Bigger kids, bigger problems”, or so they say. When they were little a band-aid used to be enough to cure almost anything. But as life’s worries grow, parents become increasingly helpless. Independence increases and crises become more severe: health issues, loss of a job, relationship breakups. Young adults have a hard time giving and receiving help to and from their parents. It did not use to be so complicated, did it?

Oh, the good ol’ days. Things used to be so easy. The entire family would live together on one farm. Great-grandpa started it and every generation since has lived and worked there from cradle to grave. When little ones were born, grandparents were there to raise them, because their parents were too busy tending livestock and working the fields. Everybody was useful as long as they could. And that’s were things got tricky and weren’t so good anymore. When gout cripples old hands, when worn out knees couldn’t be replaced, grandpa and grandma were no longer productive, the farm didn’t need them anymore and more often than not they neglected them and let them fend for themselves, without proper nutrition, clothing, shelter. Those were the shortcomings that the ten commandments address when they implore God’s people, “Honor your father and your mother”. Young adults have always needed the reminder to keep feeding grandma and grandpa even though they can’t work anymore!

Fast forward a couple of thousand years: The enlightenment makes people aware of their individual personhood beyond the ties of family. The industrial revolution drives younger generations away from the farms into the factories. The family is no longer an economic necessity but it becomes an emotional bond. Family are not the people you live and work with but the people you care about. But what happens when someone gets hurt or loses their job? The family farm is no longer there to absorb family members when they fall. Now it is up to the individual to find their own resources. Jesus advises, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” In this day and age we are all on our own. Family can be a resource for those who have one that is somewhat functional but for the most part we have to create solutions for every single challenge ourselves. Ask, search, knock!

Your kids have to ask for help. You cannot give them help they are not equipped to receive. Jesus did not heal people on his own initiative, but he asked for permission, like physicians ask for informed consent. Jesus asked the sick man: “Do you want to be made well?” It would be so easy to jump to fixes when we see our kids hurting. But that may not help them. Ignatius of Loyola taught that life is full of consolation (“ups”) and desolation (“downs”). What may make you feel down may actually be a time of productive challenge and correction. What may give you pleasure and feel good may actually be denial or distraction. You don’t know what your kids are experiencing just because you see them cheerful or sad. But one thing is sure: God is at work in their life! Trust God and let your kids do their own asking, searching, and knocking.


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