THE world will be celebrating the International Day of Families on May 15.

As we celebrate this important day, let us reflect on some principles for creating a united and happy family as well as the impact of such family on our children.

A happy family helps produce happy and well-adjusted individuals. As parents we bear the primary responsibility for the upbringing of our children. Although the child receives formal education at school, it is at home that character is developed and moral and spiritual attitudes are formed. It is the first environment where the values of tolerance, peace and social responsibility can be taught.

We, as parents, sacrifice a great deal to send our children to the best possible schools. We often register them at a school while they are still infants to ensure a good place for their secular education. Do we plan and follow up on the spiritual education of our children in the same way?

Looking at the current educational systems, we find that in most parts of the world the spiritual and moral development of children are being neglected. The failure in educating children spiritually and the neglect of character development has, regrettably, contributed to numerous problems in societies all over the world.

It is important for children to grow up in loving families and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. A caring and supportive environment is necessary for the full and harmonious development of the child’s personality

Good behaviour results from moral education. Infusing in our children the love of God and guiding them spiritually can help to instil in them good behaviour.

According to a message from the Universal House of Justice, the governing council of the Bahá’í international community: “The family unit, the nucleus of human society, constitutes a space within which praiseworthy morals and essential capacities must be developed, for the habits and patterns of conduct nurtured in the home are carried into the workplace, into the social and political life of the country, and finally into the arena of international relations”.

We, as parents, need to devote time and effort to children’s upbringing, for them to be of good character and to acquire knowledge which is useful. Of course it is very important that we show children what is right and how to behave by the example of our own lives.

The belief and practice of the equality of men and women, in the Bahá’í view,is pivotal in helping transform relationships within a family.

Practicing gender equality within family creates a nurturing and positive atmosphere; it helps build positive partnerships between members of the family and thereby further strengthens the family unit.

Unity and happiness in a family can be achieved when practices of control, competition, and excessive individualism and independence give way to those of equality, cooperation, universality, and interdependence.

This transformation can take place when the individuals try to serve one another, whilst adhering to justice as the family’s guiding principle.

Furthermore, we need to nurture love for all people and instil tolerance of differences. Our children should grow up with an acute sense of justice, and empathy for others. The vision held by a family should be a global one and one of unity of humanity.

Children, the Baha’i Writings say, should be encouraged to associate with people of all races and religions and learn to appreciate the different cultures and the contributions different people have to make. They should be taught the concept of oneness of humanity and to regard themselves as citizens of the world.

Teaching justice, and to be fair-minded, to the children is most important.

According to the Bahá’í Writings: “Children must be so raised as to regard every soul, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or any other affiliation, as a fellow human being and to hold dear the words [of Bahá’u’lláh] that capture the spirit of the age: “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”