The heartbreaking problem of contemporary family life

When all around us extracurricular activities reminded us of the imperative that we, “be good here”, we began to think about how to derive meaning from our lives. We heard of the hypothetical cliché that “you’ve spent your entire life in preparation for a problem you’re about to solve”. Who was that problem, how did it arise, why do you need to work on it, and what could you do to make it worth your while?

The problem that we’re all facing is a danger that, from a sociological and medical perspective, is far more threatening than anything, even terrorism, our country has faced in recent years. Yet our collective wisdom about the state of our family ties is very tenuous. Indeed, in retrospect the social changes that have taken place in America are not much more than an average blip of a generation. When we look back we are able to distinguish this from the actual crises that the previous generation confronted. My generation, for example, has faced fewer serious family crises than my predecessors or my parents.

We need to choose carefully which topics we want to discuss.

But what are these crises? Today, the primary choices in our lives take place outside the family. While my own parents experienced great personal challenges, mine are relatively insulated from the vicissitudes of popular culture. Even so, as a society we have been unable to handle the consequences of what a mediocre society this has been.

As a result we face a serious threat in family life, which seems to be exacerbated by social and economic conditions. Family life is fast becoming an escape hatch from society, a refuge from familiar hardships, and a place of self-help.

During the years leading up to the year 2000, the American social model was challenged. Parents got poorer, unmarried fathers grew more involved in their children’s lives, the national rates of divorce and abortion plummeted, and the party environment was replaced by the oversharing, anxiety-ridden conformity of the self-absorbed generation raised in Facebook status updates.

The collection of family rules and guidelines was shown to have provided little benefit in recent years. Redemptions – the re-evaluate of internal roles, hopes, fears, priorities, and lifestyles – evolved, where good advice once proved to be ineffective guidance.

But what should we do in the face of this crisis? Too much attention has been focused on technology, culture, morals, ethics, psychology, and politics. It might be more productive to consider questions that do not directly involve us, but are implicitly pertinent. Questions like: what matters to us as individuals and as a society, and what have we lost sight of?

Throughout history, family discussion has varied across countries and communities. Now, in 2018, amid of the worst economic downturn in memory, we cannot afford to ignore questions of family and community and the coming together that is needed in an age of insecurity.

• Ms Phillip (a pseudonym) is an actor, poet, and playwright based in Georgia. She focuses on fiction and writing about politics. Her novel The Church of Our Lady’s Ashes was published in 2014 and is available in print and ebook in America and online worldwide

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