Family life education is a broad comprehensive and flexible field. Anything which contributes to the knowledge and capacities, total growth and well-being of the family-physical, mental, emotional, economic and spiritual can be included under the umbrella of family life education has its roots in many disciplines including sociology, social work, psychology, anthropology, biology, education, history etc.
The goals of the programme are often broad based. Its objectives are to promote the freedom to choose parenthood and the enrichment of human life along with members of the family.
Family life education is considered a value related concept. Most of the values related to family life education are deeply rooted in the socio-cultural milieu of the people. These values are moral, ethical, cultural, religious, personal etc.
The contents of family life education are vital for young people while preparing themselves foe adult life. What type of educational input should be provided to them which will help them in taking decisions and developing their skills as responsible members of a family?
Family is the basic unit of the society. Although social scientists have studied a great deal about various facets of family structure and organisation, they do encounter difficulties in developing a broad, culture free generalisation that would be applicable of families in a wide range of societies.
One major difficulty arises from problems of definitions associated with the concept of family itself. The important question of what constitutes a family is not easy to answer, because by itself the term family is ambiguous. To describe more precisely the concept of family, the types of families have to be examined.
Basically, there are three types of families: the nuclear family, the joint family and the extended family. In Joint Family, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents and then progeny live in the same house.
The family members are economically and socio- culturally close knit. The extended family includes blood/marriage relationships, not living together in the same household or city. By and large, members of the traditional extended family of husband, wife and children.
This type of family is mostly found in urban and industrial societies. In some countries, young couples in a nuclear family setting are at a loss in the absence of parents and elder relatives to whom, they can turn of, what behaviour scientists refer to, as family discontinuities, family cries and other difficulties.
In terms of functions, the strength and solidarity of society are highly dependent on how the family as a basic until performs its basic functions. It is the responsibility of all members of a family to fulfill family functions although parents generally shoulder a larger share of these functions.
Failure on the part of the parents to perform their duties can lead to social problems for many generations to come. Parenthood needs skills of child rearing and preparing good progeny. To have truly happy family the needs of each and every member must be met.
These include the provision for basic needs of a person, which according to the psychologist Abraham Maslow are: physiological, safety; love and belongingness, self-actualisation. However, with needs go responsibilities and duties. All members of the family including the children also grow with the belief that they also have certain duties and functions to perform. They should learn to control their demands and expectations.
In India, traditional family relationships are generally quite extensive. In addition, there are other types of family relationships, such as those arising from a network of marriage between families. Besides, family ties can become quite complicated, as they get based not on blood kinship but also on past associations such as schoolmates, co-workers and so on.
They become emotionally very close, as good affectionate friends with close bonds and emotional relationship felt as family member. In short, family and family-life relationships are governed by various customs and traditions which are more binding than rules or laws.
A clear understanding leads to problems and sometimes chaos. For any family to exist happily there are certain tasks, which must be performed by family members.
The issue of roles within the family is further complicated by changes in the family system, i.e., change from extended to unclear/conjugal families. The participation of women in economic activities outside homes, the influence of western culture, access to higher education etc., are affecting these changes.
For smooth family atmosphere, household needs, responsibilities, chores, routine actions should be shared by all members. There may, however, be informal assignments, often by mutual consent and items of needed work concerning the family.
The study of family life cycle provides a basis for the study of the composition, growth and development of families. An understanding of the stress and strains experienced at each stage of the cycle paves the way for better understanding and cooperation among family members. There are basically eight stages in the family life cycle. These are :
At this stage, a couple learns to synchronize their ideas, values and so on. The married partners are learning to live with each other for the first time. Differences are bond to appear from time to time and it is important that a couple iron them out and establish a meaningful relationship in marriage.
The couple enters this stage at the time of first conception. With the coming of a child, finance, leisure time, and privacy will undergo changes. Proper child care becomes very important at this stage. Attention is diverted or shared between the newcomer and the spouse.
At this stage, parents need to cater for the critical needs and interests of pre-school children to stimulate their growth and development.
Husband and wife share the household work, and some may find this to be difficult. Misunderstanding between the couple may also result if too much or too little attention is given to the children. They may differ in their views and actions about how a child should be brought up or disciplined, rewarded or punished etc.
Families with school going children have to pay attention to the child’s educational and growth needs. The parents are also expected to collaborate with the demands and expectations of the school in the helping the child in his/her studies and development aspects.
Adolescents have special issues that need the help of parents and this stage can be very crucial for them and their children. As the teenagers approach adulthood, parents must ensure a balance between freedom and responsibility by helping their children to plan and execute them which will be beneficial and productive in various life situations.
After the young, adults have gone into work or studies parents being to feel a certain sense of loneliness. It is often referred to as ‘The empty nest syndrome’. At the same time they also have the need to maintain a supportive home base to the children. Children need support and guidance for various cultural, religious and traditional family based events like marriage, birthday celebrations and other ceremonies in the company of parents and relatives.
This is a trying time for a couple who have to adjust to a life together again. It is important that hobbies are developed to occupy their time after retirement. The reduction in the income makes it important to adopt a more modest standard of living.
However, their expenses on certain items, like children’s education, reduce their money needs. The grown-up children have their own families, children, have their own families, children and income.
Yet it is appropriate that the parents expect support, emotional, physical and economic, if need be from the grown-up children, living their own family lives. Good family life education should result in their readiness to make their contribution to their old parents lives.
The family members need to learn to cope with bereavement and living alone at this stage. Society’s expectations will keep children away from the concerns of aged parents. Very often helpers like home nurses may have to provide the required services to the parents.
Family needs are related to the basic human needs as described by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs. According to this theory all human being have five basic needs. They are:
Physiological needs: Food, drink, sex, clean air and good health
Safety needs: To have a roof over ones head, housing, clothing etc.
Love and belongingness needs: To have a family or community to belong to have a shoulder to lean, on the need for acceptance, giving and receiving love.
Esteem: Self respect and respect for others
Self-actualisation: Self-fulfillment and reaching one’s potential, to become somebody in life.
This need hierarchy-based theory can be graphically represented in the form of a pyramid. The needs at the lower level should be, to an extent met before a higher level of needs emerge to press for satisfaction.
All religions, philosophers and cultures advise that for a good life, one should control/limit one’s needs, living with austerity and not with greed or envy to keep up with false prestige. Families which do so remain happy and blessed.
Family needs are unlimited and the resources are limited. The family or the individual will use human and non-human resources to meet the unlimited needs.
The family has to manage the use of their resources in order to maximise their satisfaction derived from them. Family resources are discussed in the context of various stages of family life cycle and family size. It should be borne in mind that every event in the different stages of family life drains the family resources. The
demands on the family resources are heavy especially when the different stages overlap. Family size effect the need, satisfaction of the family members. Every child has the right to have a balanced diet, adequate clothing, safe shelter, proper education, attention, affection and medical attention as .well as the right to meet all basic physical, mental, psychological and spiritual requirements of a healthy and happy life.
Marriage in India is considered a permanent relationship; therefore, appropriate educational programmes are needed to prepare young people for marriage. While discussing marriage, the following questions are usually raised: For what reasons do usually marry? What are the most common types of marriages?
How do people meet their marriage partner? How long does a couple usually know each other before marriage? What is the most common age for marriage for a man and for a woman?
In India, marriages are usually classified as follows: Marriage by free choice of the partners or love marriage; arranged marriage and forced/arranged marriage.
These are unique classifications in India and in some other oriental societies. They can further be classified as monogamous or polygamous which are very rare phenomena; civil, religious and customary.
Early marriage and parenthood have been the established pattern in many societies and remain so despite the efforts of a number of governments to rise the legal minimum age of marriage. In India, the minimum age at marriage is 21 and 18 for boys and girls respectively. Social, economic and cultural changes are affecting many aspects of family life including parenthood.
As a result, young people today may have to consider issues that were previously not necessary to be taken into account. Some key issues will have to be considered by them before getting married. Becoming parents brings responsibilities which go on expanding over the years, because having children is considered to be a natural pattern of family life, some couples do not weight seriously the implications of parenthood.
Following are some of the implication of responsible parenthood:
1. To avoid risks of hunger and financial insecurity, parents should plan the number of children, based on their ability to support and rear them to full maturity or till they are self-supporting.
2. To reassure themselves of the benefits of parenthood in their old age. Parents should provide their children with guidance and direction
so that they develop and inculcate the right values as they approach adulthood.
3. To help in achieving an orderly society, parents should strive to bring up a family whose members are cognizant of both their rights and duties, while recognising the benefits of the society as well as the tasks of supporting it.
4. Parents who respond property to their partners personal needs, are in effect reducing (if not, eliminating) the probability of their ever becoming estranged.
5. The children should not feel dominated or dictated. They should be trusted and given freedom of thought and behaviour. The individuality of each member of the family be respected.
The children be treated with dignity and shown due regard. They should never feel humiliated, insulated or given physical, painful punishment or also unnecessary temptations or rewards for obedience or good behaviour or habits. Goods behaviours is a reward by itself.
Responsible parenthood cannot be discussed without bringing up the issue of family planning. Family planning is a means of enhancing the quality of life of families including regulating and spacing childbirth, helping fertile couples to beget children and providing counselling for both parents and would be parents.