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Asking the clergy: How can I strengthen my family's ethics?

The Rev. Gainus Sikes, United Methodist Church of Floral Park:

There are many things that families can and should do to strengthen family values, morals and ethics. Consistency and following through build trust. Provide alternative choices to promote responsibility. Set limits with some give-and-take to provide a sense of security. Focus on quality time and not quantity. Remember money, credit cards and cell phones can never replace parents. Do not be ashamed to say, "I'm sorry," when wrong because this teaches children how to say it as well.

Parents need to be aware that children today face much greater peer pressure than ever before, especially since recreation on Sunday has taken the place of worship for many families. Parents, remember when we bring up our children in the way we would like them to be, hopefully they will never depart.


Vicar John Flack, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Floral Park:

Family-values advice always seems to center around rules. But a family isn't made up of rules. A family is bound by mutual love and respect and provides for emotional and material needs. To strengthen family values is to strengthen these bonds. These practices might help:

First, turn off the television and the computer. A key to family life is to spend time together, talking to each other. Instead of watching games and movies all day, try taking up a hobby the whole family can enjoy, such as music.

Second, eat at least one home-cooked meal together every day. There is no substitute for conversation over food that comes from your own kitchen to strengthen family values.

Third, make religious practice central to family life. Receiving love from God helps one to love others. As your religious practice opens your heart, your family will grow in love for each other and God's world.


Rabbi Paula Jayne Winnig, Lawrence, executive director, Footsteps, Manhattan:

Before answering how to strengthen one's morals, ethics and values, one must determine what constitutes one's value system. I try to live and act based on the combination of values taught from my faith, my family and derived from being a participant in a democratic society and a citizen of an interconnected global community.

I was fortunate to be raised by parents who taught me first and foremost to truly see the divine in every human being. As a parent and teacher, I have always believed that my actions speak louder than my words. My children and my students had to see that I did what I said, from treating people with dignity and respect to helping the needy to seeking education and working diligently at every task.

My ability to do these things always has been strengthened by doing such mundane things as eating home-cooked meals regularly as a family, attending worship together, engaging in outdoor activities and keeping our religious traditions alive and integral to our daily life.

I know that keeping the Sabbath and marking that day as special always has given us the renewed spiritual strength necessary to accomplish all our daily tasks. My tradition teaches us that rather than being thanked for doing something good for another, we should thank them for giving us the opportunity to be of service. I know that each day I am able to help another and bring some goodness into someone else's life, I grow in strength and vigor.


Deacon Helen Wernlund, Ascension Lutheran Church, Deer Park:

Strengthening our families' core values seems to be more difficult today than when I was raising my sons. Soccer practice didn't take place Sunday morning, for example, so there was one less potential conflict. But I think the most important thing any parent can do is to strive to be the best role model he or she can possibly be. As parents, we need to be aware of our own core values and ethics, and what we are showing our children - which can be different from what we are telling them. If I drop the children off at Sunday school and go out for coffee rather than into the church, what message am I conveying?

When I'm aware of my own prejudices and anxieties and make a conscious effort to deal with them, I'm showing my family how to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. Spiritual direction can help; so can therapy. Self-awareness is crucial. Children are smart, and they know when we are being real. We have to stand for something, even when it's difficult, and even when we're afraid.

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