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The third episode of the Health and Family Life Education – The Parenting Edition was hosted on August 10th by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission’s (AFLC) Episcopal delegate, Tricia Syms. The guests were Tonia Gooding, the president of Communities Alive Education and Training Program and Elizabeth Inniss, administrative officer. In this episode, they explored the importance of inculcating virtues in children’s lives, especially between the ages of 5 – 9 years.

Syms reminded the viewers that parents are referred to as the first educators of their children. While exploring the meaning of education, Syms shared: “I’m reading here from the Educational Covenant – An Introduction to the Art of Living. To educate is not merely about passing on information which is knowledge, it is not merely about knowledge but rather to help children, to help persons to see the relationship between that information and the ultimate truth with its place in God’s plan.” Syms highlighted the virtue formation work that Communities Alive do, linking it to the Educational Covenant which states, “The expression of desires demands the shaping of virtues.”

Gooding explained, “A virtue is simply a good habit and according to Matthew Kelly, habits form character and character forms your destiny.” Therefore, the habits that a parent inculcates in their children’s lives play an important role in their journeys through life. Gooding mentioned, “The habits you create now affects who you become and the purpose of Alive to the World is to show how we journey towards the final outcome along with sexuality because sexuality is part and parcel of who we are at all levels.” Gooding exposed viewers to another perspective of virtue formation which has to do with “forming good habits for optimal health and happiness.”

In terms of using activities to inculcate virtues in children’s lives, Inniss emphasized the need to incorporate parents in all activities. According to Inniss, “it’s not just the child doing a question; it’s about connecting the child to the parent and the parent being involved in how the child is journeying.” In other words, both the child and the parent are making this journey together.

Syms then mentioned, “In The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, it talks about those years [5-9] being the years of innocence.” Gooding and Inniss were invited to share about the curriculum they use.

Gooding brought up the fact that we all learn things from birth which help us in the formation of healthy relationships. Gooding commented, “So it’s everything, incorporates personality, value systems and the basis has always been the family.” Parents as the first educators of their children are responsible for educating them about sexuality. “So it’s the interaction, what they observe, what they see, what they live out will determine how healthy their sexuality develops.” Gooding highlighted the importance of inculcating the following virtues in children’s lives: generosity, loyalty, perseverance, respect, good communication, cooperation, being able to forgive, patience (with self and others) and being responsible.

Syms mentioned the point that between the ages of 5 – 10 years, children are “developing conscious aspects of gender identity and learning gender roles.”

Exploring the activities that parents can do with their children at this time of their development, Inniss shared the following: “Mirroring – so we would ask the parent to stand in front of the mirror with the child and help them to appreciate their uniqueness. At the same time, you’re validating them. …When they are able to identify their uniqueness, they feel validated about who they are and they are comfortable.”

Gooding enlightened the viewers with the good news that through play, virtues are being inculcated in their children’s lives. According to Gooding, “obedience to rules given by the referee or the umpire, working with others, living in community, respect, co-operation, humility, perseverance, confidence, discipline, fair play” among others.

By: Ottrisha Carter