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Where to Get Help When in Trouble (Part One)

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Father Kelly points out in this article that, when serious troubles arise, a family should not be too proud to seek outside help. Alcoholic Anonymous, Catholic Charities, good priests, psychiatrists/counselors (carefully chosen) have their place. An answer will come, when the family is praying….

Part Two is here.Where to Get Help When in Trouble (Part Two)

by Father Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook

Probably no family exists that does not have some deep and serious problems. Sometimes the problems may result from personality conflicts between husband and wife or from a difference in their objectives.

Perhaps they derive from the interference of in-laws; from a harmful habit of one partner, such as drinking or gambling to excess; from the failure of children to respond to the training by parents, church or school; or from an almost unlimited variety of other factors.

When you were married you were not granted immunity from difficulty. Your marriage contract, in which you agreed to take your partner “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health,” clearly foresaw that your future life as a husband and father or wife and mother would be strewn with problems.

Therefore your success or failure as a parent will not depend upon the number of difficulties in your life, but rather upon how you handle those thrust upon you. To some extent, at least, the manner in which you deal with your problems is the primary measure of your adequacy as a marriage partner and a parent.

One of the greatest attributes you can develop is the ability to determine what is important in your life, what constitutes a danger for your family’s future, and whether you yourself possess resources to deal with any dangers that you foresee. Of equal, if not greater, importance is the attitude that any cross can be made bearable–if you display the courage and optimism which faith in God and His goodness can provide.

You must expect difficulties.

To achieve a truly happy family life, you must learn how to deal with troubles and tensions that are an ordinary part of existence together in a family unit. As “The Catholic Marriage Manual” points out, a husband and wife will view and do things differently.

They come from different backgrounds, and thus they will have different ideas about how money should be spent, how the household should be run, about recreation, eating, sleeping and many other activities of daily life. No couple can reasonably hope to live together in a continuously serene atmosphere, unmarred by disagreements.

Since children have their own distinct personalities, they too will differ with their parents alone and together, and with other children in the family. You must expect some difficulties.

But when disagreements go beyond normal levels, or when parents or children develop habits which continuously endanger their spiritual and emotional development or the happiness of the family at large, real trouble may be said to exist.

Danger signs of trouble.

One might cite an almost limitless number of attitudes which, if unchecked, could produce serious trouble.

For example, probably every child cries at some time to obtain what his parents do not wish him to have. If they give in to him to stop him from crying, he will always wail to gain his way, as a matter of course. Let them persist in giving him what he wants when he wants it and they will have a tyrant on their hands–a self-centered individual who will never adjust to the wishes and needs of others.

As he meets other children not so responsive to his tears, he will be unable to deal with them. Personality disorders of children have developed from such beginnings and have grown so severe that the help of outsiders was needed to make family life normal again.

A child may become shy and withdrawn, unable to do adequate work at school, because his mother or father treats him harshly and denies him love. Another may stutter because of an overdominant parent, or because a new brother or sister threatens his hold upon his parents.

A teen-ager rebels against authority and continually refuses to do his homework. A daughter reared in a very strict home cultivates undesirable companions to torment her parents.

Such conditions occur often. All have their starting point long before they reach a state where outsiders must be asked to help correct them. However, they do not typify the normal family problem.

They are exceptional for the very reason that mothers and fathers, acting on their inherent instincts as parents, can usually foresee dangerous tendencies in their family life and can forestall the development of major troubles.

Most parents have the qualities–patience, tolerance and willingness to admit their own faults–that are needed to handle the normal difficulties of living.

What should you do, however, when some condition upsets you and threatens to become more disturbing unless it is checked?

First, try to ascertain what is normal behavior. Many husbands have spells of irritability; one berates his wife because dinner is not ready at the regular time, but there is no reason to think that real trouble exists in his marriage. If, however, he continues resentful for hours after dinner, or if she delays meals every night despite his reaction, perhaps deeper and more serious factors than mere irritability are involved.

Likewise, some nagging by the wife is probably normal; if she did not continually remind her husband to repair a leaky faucet, the water bills might drive the family to the poorhouse. Again, husband and wife should realize what degree of nagging is reasonable. If she continually refuses to allow her husband to read his evening paper in peace, she probably nags to excess and there may be a more serious emotional disturbance beneath the surface.

You should have no difficulty in determining what behavior patterns to expect of your children. By recalling your own childhood, observing other youngsters in home and play situations, talking to teachers, and reading even a small amount of advice on child care problems, you can form a clear picture of what is normal.

Thus, you can expect that a brother will deliberately tease his sisters; that your children will often fight among themselves and that you will be required to separate them forcibly; that occasionally your child may accuse you of treating him unfairly; that sometimes he will disobey you–perhaps by reading in bed after lights should be out; that once in a while he will fail to do homework lessons assigned to him.

You probably should handle any of these problems by yourself.

When to seek guidance.

As a general principle, you should seek guidance when a problem presents a present or future serious danger to the well- being of one or more family members; when your own efforts to deal with it have failed; and when the disturbing condition is growing worse, rather than improving, with time. Some cases that conform to such a formula are described below.

A normal young child may have occasional nightmares. They are a subconscious reaction to fears or experiences in his waking state. One child, however, had them almost as a matter of course. Although his parents tried to assure him that he had nothing to fear, he began to dread going to bed.

They then permitted him to leave his bedroom door open and kept a light burning in the hall. Soon he resisted going to bed even under these conditions, and his fears began to affect his schoolwork, his relations with other children and with his parents. His mother took him to a counseling center.

A psychiatrist discovered after talking to him that he had become addicted to blood-and-bullets television programs, and spent most of his allowance each week on comic books of the horror type.

His parents had been unable to discern the real cause of his nightmares, for he did not appear to be unduly affected by what he read or saw on television. Clearly, therefore, this was a case calling for outside guidance.

Another boy seemed to be a model of good behavior until he reached his teens. When he entered high school, however, his parents noticed a striking change.

At some times he appeared to be strangely listless and to be given to excesses of daydreaming. At other times, he returned home in a state of feverish excitement. And on still other occasions, he responded in a violently quarrelsome way to gentle remarks by his parents.

The change was so marked, and the parents’ attempts to cope with it so ineffective, that they rightly consulted a doctor. What he discovered shocked them. The boy had taken a dare to smoke marijuana, and after a few experiences he had gone on to even more habit-forming drugs.

Fortunately, his parents acted quickly enough, and he was treated without the excruciating pain which more confirmed addicts often feel when they try to break the habit.

A young husband and his wife seemed to have made a fine adjustment to marriage until their first child arrived. Then he became quarrelsome and found fault with her conduct at the slightest provocation. She began to dread his return home at night, because she knew the evening would not end without angry words.

With greater insight, she might have realized that his attitude stemmed from immature fears that the infant might replace him in her affection. The couple’s relations continued to grow worse until a marriage counselor advised her to reassure her husband constantly of her love and to help him develop a responsible adult attitude.

Had experienced guidance not been available, the relations of this couple might have degenerated to a point where their future happiness would be endangered.

Jesus had a serene disregard for worldly renown. His birth had been obscure, His parents common folk. For many years He worked as a carpenter to support His widowed mother.

Though His miracles made Him a public figure, His “hard sayings“ won Him the wrath of the hypocrites, who “in the hour of darkness” had their way with Him.

On Calvary, He was surrounded by a jeering rabble, gloating that the self-styled King of the Jews was in His proper place-“with two other malefactors“.

But on Easter, there is no one with Him to rejoice at His Resurrection.

Jesus had many witnesses of His failures, but none at His crowning success. His loneliest moment was his triumphal Resurrection. He was a success first of all before God – the only worthwhile success.

Painting by Frank Ordaz

“Boys need that self-assured belief that they can do anything to grow into men of action and achievement—but they’ll never build that confidence if Mom and Dad never give them real responsibility. We have to give important jobs to our kids, and then we have to trust them and not worry about them messing up. It would certainly be easier for us to just do the hard stuff ourselves and let our boys play, but our goal isn’t to do what’s easy. It’s to raise men.” – Chasity Akiki

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