Relief Society Lesson #37 – Family Responsibilities
Guest Post by ZD Eve
The first thing I would do if I were teaching this lesson would be to take a careful look at my Relief Society’s demographics and adjust accordingly. The lesson manual outlines family responsibilities in a very traditional family situation, in which there are two active, believing parents, and relatively young children living at home. But the majority of my current ward, like the majority of the church, does not live in that situation. Some of us don’t have husbands or children and live far from our families of origin. Some are married without children. Some are divorced or widowed, with or without children. Some share custody of children with former spouses and raise stepchildren with current spouses. Some are raising children in interfaith marriages. Some are empty-nesters; some are raising grandchildren. In some families, fathers work or work and go to school while mothers stay home and raise the children. In other families both parents work and go to school. In some families mothers work while fathers stay home and raise the children.
Depending on the demographic diversity in the ward I was teaching and the level of trust I felt in Relief Society, I might introduce this lesson by asking class members to name all of the different family configurations they could think of (those in the paragraph above, and perhaps others I’m not thinking of) and write them all on the board. I would then emphasize that the gospel is the same for all of us whatever our family situations, and I’d encourage class members to try to make their comments relevant to people in a variety of circumstances, and not just in a “when you have a more traditional family situation someday” sense. I would emphasize that whatever our family situations, all of us have known both pain and joy in family life, and that our heavenly parents and Savior care deeply for all families and all people—not just the traditional families, and not just the people in traditional circumstances.
Some questions that I might ask the class follow.
(1) Why do we so emphasize families in the church? What have you learned from being part of a family? How has being a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a wife, a mother, or a grandmother changed you? What does family mean to you? What do you value about the families you are part of?
(2) The manual mentions teaching children the gospel as an important responsibility of parents. We hear a lot about the daily and weekly family rituals, such as family scripture study, family prayer, family home evening, and church attendance, that sustain a devotional family life. What, if anything, did you learn from your family of origin about family religious practices? What did your parents teach you about religion that you found meaningful and that you would want to pass on? How have you been able to sustain important family rituals and adapt them to your particular family situation?
(3) If you are a parent, what do you most want to teach your children? What is it especially important to you that they learn from you? What have you found effective and ineffective in teaching children?
(4) How do we balance being “firm but kind” with children? How might D&C 121:41–43 be helpful in terms of disciplining children?
(5) How have you been able to sustain relationships with siblings and parents as you have become an adult? How have you been able to maintain relationships with your family of origin if you live far from them?
(6) If you are a parent of adult children or a grandparent, how have you been able to maintain relationships with your adult children and create good relationships with your grandchildren? How have you been able to sustain relationships among extended family?
(7) If you are a parent of adult children, what advice would you give your younger self? What do you know now that you wish you had known then? What advice would you give someone just beginning to raise her children? (You might list answers on the board.)
(8) The manual emphasizes that each person in a family is important, and each member of the family is a child of God. However, sometimes we all get stuck in unhappy ruts and limiting family roles. For instance, one child might be chronically overlooked because he is quieter and less demanding. Another child might constantly be labeled the “bad” or “rebellious” or “difficult” child. How can we help each other break out of these sorts of roles, which often persist far into adulthood? How can we become willing to see our parents, our siblings, and our children, in more complex and more hopeful terms?
(9) How can we effectively negotiate differences within families? For example, almost all of us deal with religious differences within our immediate or extended families. Some of us are converts and are the only members in our families or origin or in our current families. Some come from families where siblings are at different places of activity and belief within the LDS Church, or belong to different churches. Some are in interfaith marriages. How can we sustain loving family ties across religious differences? How can we maintain religious practices that are important to us while respecting religious differences?
(10) Every family, no matter how perfect it might look from the outside, has problems. What are some of the challenges of family life? What do you personally find the hardest aspects of being in a family? What makes it so difficult sometimes? (You might list answers on the board.) What can we do to cope with or address the difficulties that we face as families? How can we support each other through family difficulties and support each others’ families?