Understanding Your Role as Ma and Pa
The Trek Family
You will be assigned young people with whom you will spend the entire three days. These young people will vary in backgrounds and strengths and most likely will not be from the same ward. However, they will all dress similarly and have the same simple possessions.
Your family will have a handcart to place all the family belongings. As a family, you will pull and push the handcart together (Parents are encouraged to allow the youth to participate in handcart pulling – don’t do all the work and let them do it as often as possible), cook meals together, and have devotionals and family scripture study, prayer and discussions together.
Suggestions and/or Guidance for Ma’s and Pa’s
Love: Your most important responsibility is to “love” the youth. Each youth is unique and will need your love and support to overcome their personal challenges. These challenges can be physical and spiritual. Strive to always be aware of each family member and their needs.
Lead: You will lead your family throughout the Trek. You will take the lead in all family prayers, family scripture study, group hugs, discussions/reflection time, assignments, meals and activities.
Listen: It is critical that you always listen to and observe the youth. Use eye to eye contact when listening to avoid distractions. By always listening and observing, you will know when it’s time to offer a helping hand or allow the youth to struggle (and hopefully learn and grow).
Be Fun and Have a Great Attitude: You should help your family have fun. Be positive and enthusiastic. Smile and encourage your family members in even the most challenging tasks.
Sing!! Pioneers sang often. It helped them to deal with boredom, hardship, and to have fun. Songs will be included in your trail guide. You may want to bring and teach any trail, campfire, happy, and fun song you have and know.
Know some Gap Fillers to use: There could be gaps in the schedule. Using gap fillers and fames help to keep things interesting. Bring pioneer stories or experiences from your own family histories to share with your family.
Set and Adhere to Clear Expectations: Establish clear expectation and family rules. Let your family know that you must know where they are at ALL times and get permission before they leave the family camp.
Be a Resource: You are a resource to the family not a servant. Delegate responsibilities, like gathering wood, fixing meals, filling the water jug, etc. You should never be working alone. Allow the youth to shoulder their load. For example, if they do not wash the cereal out of the pan, cook the next meal with the cereal encrusted pan. Let the youth learn from their mistakes.
Care and Supervision of Youth: You are responsible for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of your family. The other Ma’s and Pa’s are responsible for theirs. If you see a youth acting inappropriately, it is probably best (use your good judgement) to inform their Ma and Pa and let them handle the situation. The bishops will also be there and can help with youth from their ward within your family if needed. Hopefully, they can turn the situation into a meaningful one through the relationship they have developed.
Allow for Creativity: Allow the youth to show their creative skills. Often, they will find a new and better method for accomplishing a task. Avoid providing step-by step instructions or doing jobs for them. Allow the opportunity for them to grow, discover and develop their potential. This should also make your role as leader easier and more rewarding.
Create Unity: Family unity is a significant goal of the Trek. Ideally your family members will remember the family unity on the Trek rather than just the Ma and Pa. Another goal is to establish and maintain love and unity between fellow Ma’s and Pa’s, the Trail Boss and the Captains and all other leaders.
Stay on Schedule: You will receive an itinerary for the Trek. Times listed are approximate and are only guides. Become familiar with the order of events and the general concepts. Please strive to follow those times while also being flexible and patient with others as well. To keep your family on schedule, watch the other families and make sure your family is at about the same stage of the program. It is frustrating to wait for an hour while one family finishes a particular activity. But once you get on the Trek, your primary focus should be on the youth and your relationship with them.
Resolving problems: When challenges arise in your family, it will be your responsibility to resolve them with the Spirit and in a positive way. For example, if a family member decides not to pull the handcart and simply stops, allowing other handcarts to go by, you may want to gather together and sing a hymn, say a prayer and discuss why they are doing what they are doing. This is a good time to have a family discussion. Treat it openly and you should have a good discussion with your family. The Ma & Pa’s responsibility will be to watch and lead their family. They should make sure everyone is pulling their fair load of the work. It is usually the loudest complainer that will be doing the least amount of work. Quietly encourage them to join in and help. The best place to get a person to work is at the yoke of the cart. They will have a hard time when placed at the front of the cart. They soon realize that the cart is very heavy and it takes all of the family to push and pull it on the trail.
Your most important responsibility will be to Love the youth: This is perhaps the most difficult skill for some to acquire, but it will be your greatest resource. Your spiritual preparation, having quality personal and family prayers, scripture study, putting your life in order, serving others in and out of the Church, attending the temple – is of utmost importance and will help you be in tune with the Spirit so that you can receive the help and guidance when you need it.