Maintaining a broken family the
role of teenagers
By Altaf Husain
First, be attentive. Almost no family breaks apart overnight. There are clear signals and warning signs that something is terribly wrong. Being attentive does not mean reacting; it means being aware, alert, and making mental (and if needed, written) notes of the nature of family relations. Be as objective as possible when you observe. Do not take sides with your mom or dad, just observe and try to understand each of their points of view.
Second, be there. The moment you notice that something is wrong in the family, make it a point to adjust your schedule so that you spend as much free time at home as you can. Staying away from home and running away from the problems does not make them go away. As a teenager, you may be able to leave home and go spend time with your friends, but what about your siblings who are too young to leave the house on their own? Who will comfort them when your mom and dad fight? Who will help the younger ones feel safe and secure if you are not there?
Being at home also gives your parents a chance to talk to you if they feel inclined to do so. If you are in the family room and your mom is reading a book, it is possible that she might put down the book to just talk to you about how she is feeling. Being there is critical to helping your parents realize that whatever decisions they will make about their marriage will affect you. Your presence helps put a human face on the terrible consequences of separation and divorce.
Third, be proactive. When you know that there is something wrong between your mom and dad, make it a point to talk to each of them separately. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes, you could just get them involved in helping you with a school project, or with whipping up your favourite recipe (without hinting at any problems or fights).
As you work alongside them, tell them that you are feeling sad about how they are treating one another. Suggest that perhaps they could seek out professional counselling or even talk to the local imam about whatever problems they are facing. Most importantly, pose the question, "How can I help?" to your parents. Then just listen to what they have to say and see if you can, in fact, help.
Fourth, make Dua'. The most powerful assistance you can offer your family members is to make Dua' to Allah to prevent the family from breaking apart. Remember, however, that only Allah knows best as to whether it is better for the family to remain together or whether it is better for the family to be apart. Perhaps one or the other of the family members is unwilling to correct his or her destructive behaviour or attitudes.
If, by the will of Allah your
family does break apart, how should you deal with it?
First, make Dua'. Many times, young people forget that Allah Most High is in charge and parents cannot break off a marriage except by the will of Allah. So if it is in Allah's plan that your family is to be tested by separation or divorce, then your first instinct should be to make Dua' to Allah to grant everyone concerned what is best for their faith, their family, and their future. People are often amazed at how certain family members in whom everyone had lost hope suddenly have a change of heart and are able to reconcile with others (sometimes years after the initial dispute).
In the most hopeless of times, Allah Most High can bind hearts together and rekindle the bonds of kinship, brotherhood, and sisterhood. Allah Most High reminds us in the Quran, [And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided?] (Surat Aal `Imran, 3:103)
Second, be there. One of the easiest courses of actions to take during disputes is to cut off all ties and contact with the disputing party. While this course of action is easy and seemingly practical, it is reflective of un-Islamic behaviour and is abhorred according to Islamic teachings. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and prayers be upon him) said, "Do not break off ties with one another, do not turn away from one another, do not hate one another, do not envy one another. Be brothers, as Allah (glory be to Him) has commanded you" (Sahih Muslim, 16:120).
This reminder from the Prophet is concise and powerful and ends with the directive to "be brothers" because that is what Allah Most High has commanded us to be. Indeed, that directive is derived from the Quranic outlook, which states that "the believers are nothing else than brothers and sisters (in Islam). So, make reconciliation between your brothers.'' (Surat Al-Hujurat, 49:10).
As a young person, you have so much to gain from being the source of the reconciliation between your parents or other family members. When the parents or other adults have a lot of history between them that keeps them second guessing each other and judging the other's intentions, you are a new face and a refreshing sight when you say to one of them, "What is wrong and how can I help?"
As a young person, there are many challenges you face in daily life. This helps you to envision an active role for yourself in helping maintain strong family ties and relations. With so many more families facing difficult times staying together; young people do not have the option of running away and hiding or disappearing into a world of irresponsibility. You need to stop and realize that rather than being a passive observer who is being acted upon by family members and other adults, you can and should take an active role in reconciling the hearts of people who have fallen into disputes. You should do this only to seek the pleasure of Allah, and, Insha' Allah, with His guidance, you will be able to help not only your immediate family but also your extended family members.