Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
From the publishers of THE HINDU
Well-being : March 12, 2000
Family as focus
P. O. George
The author is Director, Centre for Health Care Research and Education, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kerala.
Well-being can be described as a condition where a person feels positively good physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. The World Health Organisation defines health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being. It refers to a condition where a person experiences a state of being free from disease, possesses sufficient immunity against common diseases, demonstrates the capacity to work and produce results and holds sufficient potential for growth. Alternatively, one who does not have any claim to this attribute may fall sick, be growth-retarded, physically, mentally and socially, or be unable to work and produce results.
D. V. Jainer/ Telepress Features
The Kerala Story
Those who do not feel well are on the increase by the day. It is all the more acute in urban areas where the hold of traditional values and institutions has almost disappeared. The consumer culture sweeping the urban society and the breakdown of the joint family system have contributed to this. Kerala, universally acclaimed as a model state of India has many "firsts" to its credit; universal literacy, highest life expectancy, sex ratio favourable to women and lowest infant mortality.
But Kerala also has the highest rate of suicide among the states of India - 28.4/10,000. Kerala, "God's Own Country", has the highest crime rate as well. It may be surprising to many that nearly four per cent of all families in this State are those categorised as single parent families. The single parent factor may result from death, divorce, desertion or separation. Reports show that the number of cases pending in the family courts are on the increase. The number of children running away from homes has also gone up. Consumption of alcohol has touched an all time high.
We need to realise that well-being is acquired, not received as a gift from anyone else. We have to work hard towards this end. It has to be planned in advance and constantly monitored. Some measures which may be taken at the level of the family to enhance the well-being of the members are suggested here:
- Having a child should be the result of a conscious act, not an accident of nature. The child's arrival should be planned in the proper time frame. It is not right to have the baby and hand it over to the not-so-willing grandparents to look after!
- The young parents should also be willing to accept change. There will be changes in economic status also. The husband and wife will have to assume new roles as parents and share the added responsibility.
- They should spend as much time as possible with the children and give full attention to them. Time spent together by children and parents helps strengthen the bond between them.
- They should listen to children, to their problems and difficulties and even pick up the subtle messages. Listening heals broken self esteem.
- Children should feel free to share their fears and fantasies.
- Parents should acknowledge the positive qualities of their children in a non-evaluative way and reward achievement and disapprove of wrong doing.
- It is good to have realistic expectations and not expect the children to achieve what the parents themselves were unable to reach.
- Parents may give a chance for children to be of help in the family chores. Children can be trusted to take responsibility.
- Parents should help them release their tensions through physical exercise.
- Active interaction with children in their everyday lives would enhance well-being.
D. V. Jainer/ Telepress Features
Similarly, the husband and wife should work towards building up a healthy relationship. Some areas needing special attention:
- The couple should find time to talk to each other. Having no secrets or hidden agendas between them will be a desirable situation.
- The couple should find time to listen to each other.
- Special care should be taken to provide for the needs of the aged, chronically ill and the handicapped members of the family.
- They should demonstrate that they consider each other equal. Denigrating or discriminating against one another should be avoided at all costs.
- The husband and wife should share the family chores. Leaving the wife alone to handle housekeeping, child rearing, children's education etc. in addition to the burden of an outside job is cruelty indeed.
- There should be adequate opportunities for each member of the family for rest and recreation. Each one should be able to find time for one's favourite pastime or hobbies.
- The family members should learn to live within their means. Spending beyond what one earns leads to the debt trap which has caused the undoing of many a happy family.
- Money should only be a means to enhance well-being. It should not be allowed to become the proof of well-being.
- We should work towards demonstrating our commitment to values. A life governed by values like trust, justice, honesty, and equality should be the cornerstone of our personal life as well as social behaviour.
- The family which learns to judiciously use television as a means to information, inspiration and entertainment will be on the road to wellbeing. In many families that "idiot-box", as it is often referred to, governs daily life. The daily routine is often determined by the type of programmes being beamed on the T.V.
- The family which finds time to eat together, pray together, celebrate together and feels it a joy to be together will stay together. This is particularly true today where the pace of life is hectic and nobody seems to have enough time for anyone else.
Well-being which may be experienced at physical, mental and social levels can be felt in the family, the community, the workplace, the State, and the country. It has to be acquired through planned efforts. Such efforts will however, be rewarded with well-integrated personalities, peaceful societies and motivated citizenry. Development will be the natural outcome. Life in a community which has a positive aura of well-being will certainly be enriching and enjoyable.
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