Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation discusses role of marriage in fostering social wellbeing
Families need to spend time with their children to “build their understanding of where they come from” and start conversations with them at a young age, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, has told an international conference on marriage.
The second day of Qatar Foundation member Doha International Family Institute’s (DIFI) conference, Marriage: Formation and Constituents of Stability, explored the theme of loneliness, and what children need in order to feel they belong in a community.
And the panel discussion on this issue saw Her Excellency Sheikha Hind emphasize the importance of families raising children who are “confident” and able to “express their emotions” – while also explaining why marriage, in itself, is not a cure for loneliness and other social issues.
“We have to spend time with our children in building an understanding of where they come from,” she said. “The conversations we have with our children are critical and need to start at a very young age.
“They have to feel they are able to ask questions, and that we have the time to answer them. And they have to feel they belong to a community, which they can only do if they understand how they are connected to it, and who they are.
I feel that, today, we are more and more connected to the global world, but less so with family and friends in our immediate community
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind told the DIFI conference’s online audience: “I feel that, today, we are more and more connected to the global world, but less so with family and friends in our immediate community.
“There is still a lot for us to understand about why people feel lonely and how we can tackle these issues, but I believe it’s about meaningful relationships – not just the number of hours in a day that you spend with people, but the relationships you build with them by learning about their lives and, in turn, sharing yours. The more we are connected globally, the less meaningful relationships I feel we are building.”
Speaking about the role of marriage in combating loneliness, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind said: “I think there is too much of a burden placed on marriage to be a solution to problems.
It’s critical for us to nurture confident children, and for them to be confident, proud of the environment and the country they live in, the language they speak, their religion, and the family they come from
“If we do not go into a marriage with confidence, a true recognition of what we want, and a commitment to what we expect to have from that marriage – and if we do not align those expectations with our partner – the issues will evolve and the challenges will continue.
“It’s important that family relationships are built in an equal way where each individual is respected, and that includes our children. We need to respect that we bring our children up to have a voice as well, and they need to feel they have this security within their home.”
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind also told the discussion that parents must “listen to what our children need as they grow”, saying: “It’s critical for us to nurture confident children, and for them to be confident, proud of the environment and the country they live in, the language they speak, their religion, and the family they come from.
Marriage is one of the strongest institutions for improving the general wellbeing of people, but as its failure scenarios can be very harmful, we must work very hard to improve the institution of marriage
“Only then can we nurture confident individuals who will continue to grow, and have a love for learning.”
The session also heard from Her Excellency Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar, Vice-President of the Women and Democracy Association in Turkey, who explained: “Marriage is the exact opposite of being alone, and marriage and family are the most common antidote to loneliness.
“Ties to a spouse or children are seen as adding meaning to life, and these ties are formed through mutual obligations, responsibilities, and caring. And having an intimate confidant in whom you can trust is what makes marriage critical.
“However, not all marriages are ideal. The ability to establish healthy communication with a spouse and children is not an easy thing, and when an individual cannot realize their potential within the family, and communication is weak, that individual can start feeling lonely.
“The connection between marriage and loneliness may not be as simple as we think. Marriage is one of the strongest institutions for improving the general wellbeing of people, but as its failure scenarios can be very harmful, we must work very hard to improve the institution of marriage.”