Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Small: Family focus desperately needed

Family focus desperately needed
By Jonathan Small

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared war on a “loneliness epidemic.” Murthy noted “about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones and support systems.” According to the CDC, 25.5 percent of adults ages 18-24 reported having seriously considered suicide in the past month.

We must reflect on how to reverse this trend and best equip people for thriving. When we consider the best environments to help people thrive and get support when they need it, the importance of the family cannot be ignored.

Murthy noted some of the cures for decreasing the significant number who experience loneliness will be “increasing connections through volunteer organizations or religious groups” and the important role that parents and caregivers have in helping their children build connection while modeling screen-free socializing and constructive conflict resolution.

While what society does to address loneliness is important, no institution is better suited and more on the front lines to address loneliness than the family. After all, it’s parents and guardians who provide homes, help children navigate educational needs, provide moral training and influence a child’s worldview, development of work ethic and resiliency (or grit), and teach youth the science of hope, the success sequence and so much more. The success sequence is when an individual, in this order, gets a skill, gets a job, and then gets married, which has resulted in 97 percent of those that have done that not living in poverty with 75 percent of the poor who have done that moving into the middle class. Imparting these paths to thriving is a full-time job that institutions external to the family can support, but those entities can’t out-achieve what an immediate, healthy family can provide.

Recently, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker advised graduates on “one controversial antidote that I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come. Get married and start a family…I don’t care if you have a successful career…In the end, no matter how much money you attain, none of it will matter if you are alone and devoid of purpose.”

Regarding building and increasing the number of healthy families, Ian Rowe, author of the book, “Agency,” has valuable points on why and how to empower healthy families. I find two of Rowe’s statements especially important for the right mindset: “We have to have the courage to say things that are common sense,” and, “It’s not about the family you’re from but about the family you form.”

If we truly care for children, those who are lonely, the most vulnerable, and the future, then we must focus on building and empowering strong families.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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