Building good relationships

At the moment I am interviewing for the 2020 cohort and it is great to meet the wonderful families who are about to join our community. During the interviews, I go through The Rite Journey programme and the basic aims of a rite of passage. I'm sure you will remember them from the many Parent Information Evenings, but just in case they have slipped your mind here they are again. A rite of passage aims to:

  • Provide a profound sense of belonging to a community.
  • Provide challenges and celebrate success when they are overcome.
  • Move a young person from a child psychology (I, me, mine, I am at the centre of the universe) to an adult psychology (we, us, community, the only true joy I will ever know is when I do something for someone else).

Given I was at an EREA Principals' wellbeing conference last week, some of what I cover in the enrolment interview prompted me to write this piece. At the event, speaker after speaker presented statistics about diet, exercise, longitudinal studies of tribes and communities with great longevity and metadata that confirmed all the usual portents of good health. And yet each speaker provided a codicil: good health is directly related to good relationships.

At CBC Fremantle, our Journey is underpinned by good relationships. Like any intangible, we can sometimes become complacent about our relationships. One sign that families are changing is very evident in the TRJ classes. We begin each TRJ year with the boys researching their family history. This is important, because if boys think that the lifestyle they enjoy simply fell out of the sky, they risk not appreciating the sacrifices that have been made before them, which naturally creates ambivalence about their incredible privileges and opportunities. Entitlement creates many problems. I know that when I was dining at Grotta Palazzese last year for the tenth anniversary of my wife's 40th birthday, the food tasted so much better because I remembered the copious quantities of split pea soup we both ate in our first few years of our marriage. Six years ago, when researching their families, boys at CBC were amazing. They brought in WWI artefacts, newspaper clippings from the 1880s, the landing documents of their great-grandparents and many other trinkets and stories. Three years ago the quality of the research waned; this year it dropped off a cliff. One boy did not even know his mother's Christian name. Many, many boys could not name the hospital they were born in. Even more could not name the suburb their parents grew up in, how they met, or what school mum and dad went to. Information about grandparents was non-existent with many boys.

Knowing where you come from provides a strong foundation in the growth of a young man. Indigenous rites of passage always begin with stories of spirituality, heritage, history and family. Interestingly, in an era where more photos are taken than ever before, I rarely see a photo album. I have clear memories of when I was a child and the weather would not permit outside activities, my mum would gather me and my brother around an album and point out who and what she had left behind in Sicily. "This is your nonno, here is your nonna, this is your zio Pietro and here is the mule we owned," all often in the same room! By the time I went to Sicily in 1972, I felt grounded in that culture, I felt I belonged in that little town and I have felt a bond and calling ever since. It saddens me that in the busyness of life, these stories, these moments, these bonds to the past and this building on tradition and sacrifice may become extinct.

If relationships are so important, how are you prioritising them? What are the mantras or rituals your family follows to engender togetherness? How are the sacrifices of the past being appreciated by your sons? Recent research is showing that many young people are finding it difficult establishing and maintaining relationships and socialising because they spend so much time alone they can't read faces.

Parents need to reclaim their families. Family meals where topics like gratitude, joy, love and interests are discussed. Beginning a conversation with something good that happened today. We now live in a culture devoid of deep and meaningful conversation. Try a device-free hour or two to spark the joy of family time, and hopefully be able to put a focus on what is clearly valued by you all - relationships and family.

"Humans. They sacrifice their health to make money. Then they sacrifice money to recuperate their health. Then they are so anxious about the future that they do not enjoy the present. The result is that they risk not living in the present or the future: they live as if they are never going to die, and then die never having really lived."

Mr Domenic Burgio

Celebrating NAIDOC Week