SIKESTON - "Connections Count," the theme for the first local observance of National Family Week scheduled for Nov. 24-30, is all about the effect families and communities have on each other.
"The family is going to make the community, the community makes the family. Without strong families, you can't have a real strong community," said John Heacox, program director at the YMCA. "And families are strong when they live in a community that connects them to economic opportunities, social networks and services."
Family Week is right in line with the Y's mission, according to Heacox. "We are a family-oriented organization and we believe that strong families make for well-rounded children," Heacox said. "This is what the kids need."
Heacox said the root of many of the problems faced by our community and others across the nation is the breakdown of the family unit. He hopes this year's observance will bring "recognition of the connection citizens of Sikeston have with their families and communities."
Although this will be Sikeston's first observance, family week has been celebrated nationally for some time.
"We're part of a group founded in 1968 by Sam Wiley, a teacher and administrator, called Alliance for Children and Families out of Milwaukee, Wisc.," said Heacox. "We are one of the affiliates of the program."
For this first year's observance, the city will sign a proclamation supporting Family Week, brochures on how to build strong families will be passed out and participants in the YMCA'S Middle School after-school program are working on a banner with handprints from their families which will be displayed in the Middle Schools's cafeteria until school lets out for Thanksgiving break.
"Then we'll bring it over to the YMCA and display it over here," said Heacox.
Simply "getting the word out" is the most important part, however, according to Heacox. "This is the key. We need to educate the parents and have strong family relationships."
One of the most obvious ways of strengthening the family unit is simply doing things together as a family, Heacox said.
Going as a family to a member's sports game or band performance, in addition to showing support for the individual's pursuits, can be a bonding experience for the whole family, Heacox explained. A family's strength is built with positive communication, talking.
"I think there's a breakdown of communication in families," said Heacox. "Even though they are tired after working, instead of coming home and plopping down on the couch in front of the TV, parents need to turn the TV off and talk to their kids."
The stronger communication between a family is, "the stronger that family unit is going to be," Heacox said.
The YMCA will continue their efforts to strengthen families within the community by emphasizing family activities through the next year, Heacox said. "Activities that involve both the parent and child."
Already scheduled at the YMCA is a Parents' Night Out from 5-11 p.m. Dec. 13, as another source for strength in a family is "the relationship of the parents themselves," said Heacox. "Having a positive relationship within the parental unit is important. If the parents are loving toward each other, that will filter down to the children."