An old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
The clear implication of this saying is that bringing up children well involves more than just the parents. From the moment we are born, we interact with those around us, which include our parents, siblings and other members of the extended family. As we grow up, the sphere of interaction expands to encompass neighbours, childhood companions, teachers, schoolmates and friends. Even those we meet on a daily basis may be counted as familiar strangers. Thus those who make up the circles of influence in our lives easily number more than 10, perhaps even a hundred!
With today’s busy and fast-paced lifestyle, many parents struggle to set aside time and energy for their children. Under pressure on the economic front, both parents in many families work, and it is usually not just a nine-to-five commitment. Very often, we find at least one parent away on overseas assignments. Parents’ time at home is therefore very limited. Even if one parent stays home to look after the children, they realise with a shock the competition they face from social media, new trends and even new cultures.
Christian parents, in particular, need to keep an eye out for one another so that the hearts of our children may be filled with a bedrock of truth and wisdom to last them a lifetime. This is what Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Today’s young parents very much need the involvement of the grandparents, or of more experienced parents. Together they can mutually support the raising of the next generation.
Timothy was known to be a devout and God-fearing man. Paul was instrumental in leading Timothy to become a faithful and good pastor. Yet Timothy’s sincere faith was nurtured from when he was a very young boy by his mother and maternal grandmother (2 Tim 1:5).
From Timothy’s example, we are inspired to affirm the role of grandparents in helping young parents to nurture the spiritual life of their young children in a very deep way. In a Christian household, the grandparents play the role of spiritual elders. The grandparent–grandchild bond is a special one where the grandparents are seen as kind, considerate and trustworthy elders. That is why young children are often most receptive to their grandparents’ admonishment or persuasion.
The impact of the grandparents on young ones should not be underestimated. They do not just accompany the children at the playground, tell stories or jokes, or buy toys, pets or the umpteenth ice cream for their grandchildren.
Deep down in their young souls, the grandparents help pave the way to eternity. In the eyes of the young, their grandparents’ actions and words leave a really deep impression. They see just what great people their grandparents are, and honour and remember them.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference from 2008 to 2016.
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