Your extended family can play an important role in how your child is raised. From setting expectations, to imparting wisdom, to providing emotional support, having a good relationship with members of your extended family can be beneficial for your child’s development. If you’re wondering what kind of support your extended family can provide for your child’s upbringing, read on to find out more.
1. Definition of an Extended Family
An extended family is any family that is larger than just the nuclear familyi.e. the nuclear family plus additional relatives. Most extended families are composed of several generations living under the same roof. In this type of family setup, each family member actively plays a role in the child’s upbringing.
- Grandparents – Grandparents typically play an important role in the raising of the child. Through stories, they can provide the child with a sense of belonging and shared identity. Grandparents can also help to instill values and help to shape the child’s character by setting an example for them to follow.
- Aunts/Uncles – Aunts and uncles provide a source of well-rounded advice from a different generation than the child’s parents. They are also integral to providing a support system that many children find comforting, and may even form long-lasting relationships.
- Cousins – Cousins can also provide a strong source of encouragement and support. Not only can a cousin provide a friend to confide in, but they can also help with shyness, exploration, and other issues that a child may encounter while growing up.
- Siblings – Siblings are often the most important members of an extended family. They play a crucial role in helping to raise the child and to provide a safe, nurturing environment. Brothers and sisters can provide emotional support to one another, and this is especially important during childhood.
Although the family unit is often the core of any upbringing, an extended family can add value that a nuclear family cannot. Extended family members can provide different perspectives and different experiences to the child, giving the child a deeper understanding of the world in which they live. In addition, an extended family allows the child to form bonds with members outside the nuclear family, which can be beneficial in the future.
2. Benefits and Challenges of an Extended Family for Child Upbringing
- Having extended family members with different life experiences contributes to conversation topics and a variety of perspectives for the child
- Extended family may help fund educational and recreational activities, as well as help with child care
- Extended family often provides a direct connection to family values and history
- Older children can be mentors to younger siblings and cousins
- Family events create opportunities for extended family to engage and build lasting relationships
- Dealing with different parenting styles from multiple family members
- Turbulence in family dynamics due to differing opinions and past atrocities
- Parents having to manage expectations of all sides
- Often extended family is in different locations which can limit in-person visits
- Spouses and significant others can add another layer of complexity to family functioning
In an extended family environment, children are exposed to different generational teachings, social-groups, cultures, resources and values. They can benefit from a larger network of childcare, education, and support systems. As a result, relationships can develop between family members that span generations. Furthermore, children can gain a better understanding of their heritage and culture as older family members share stories and cultural life lessons.
On the other hand, with extended family often come the issues of differing parenting styles, power dynamics, and the potential for unresolved resentments. Parents may have difficulty assessing the influence of extended family, as well as other members of the child’s social networks. In some cases, this can also put parents in a difficult position when setting boundaries and laying down rules for their own children.
Overall, an extended family setting provides both beneficial and challenging experiences for child upbringing. It is important to bear in mind that the positive and negative influences can vary depending on the individual family’s dynamics, and issues of trust, communication, and boundaries should be discussed between family members.
3. How to Work Out
When the topic of extended relatives and child upbringing comes up, discussions can become complex. Children benefit from having a large and supportive family, however roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and adhered to. Here are three key points to keep in mind for a healthy family dynamic:
1. Understand the State Regulations: Different states have different regulations around grandparents and other extended family members, so it is important to understand the legal definitions in your state. Generally speaking, family members may have rights to custody if they can prove reasonable harm to the child, being the primary caregivers and/or legal guardians of the child prior to the birth of the child, or having other reasonable vulnerable situations.
2. Establish Respectful Boundaries: Boundaries are important in any relationship but especially so for extended family members. It is important to set appropriate boundaries and explain the roles and expectations so that everyone is on the same page. For example, it is important to create boundaries around the amount of time the extended family is allowed to spend with the child and the types of relationships they have.
3. Show Respect for Different Cultural Practices: It is important to recognize that different families may have different traditions or practices. It is important to be respectful of these variations and open to the idea of integrating what it good from them into your own family dynamics and traditions.
4. Open Communication: Communication is key to any healthy relationship. Establishing mutually respectful and open communication channels among extended family members and the parents/guardians of the children helps ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the upbringing of the child. Allowing for open and honest discussions can help to diffuse any potential misunderstandings or conflicts as well.
5. Involve the Children: It is important to involve children in making decisions and engaging with their extended family members. This helps to foster a sense of belonging and connection with the family and extended family members. It’s also important to involve children in age-appropriate conversations so they develop a sense of respect for all their family members.
4. Outreach for Grandparents and Other Extended Family Members
Grandparents and other extended family are an integral part of a child’s upbringing. Their presence can be a source of love, guidance, and support for children as they reach key developmental milestones. It’s important to understand the roles that they play and the ways in which they can help support their families during this time.
Family Role Reversal
Today’s grandparent’s and extended family are often taking on the role of primary caregiver and are the ones providing guidance and structure in the home. With the traditional role of parenting shifted onto their shoulders, they are often faced with the challenging task of providing a safe and nurturing environment while instilling values and expectations.
As adult figures in a child’s upbringing, it’s important for grandparents and extended family to set consistent boundaries and expectations. This helps to ensure that the children have an established sense of right and wrong and have someone consistent to turn to for sound advice.
Time With Grandparents
Reserving quality time with a child and their grandparents is a necessary ingredient for a well-rounded childhood. Take the time to create meaningful experiences and memories together and recognize that their presence in the child’s life is a valuable gift. Being a part of the growing and developing process will provide them with lasting memories.
- Make traditions and introduce celebratory holidays.
- Share stories from their own childhood.
- Demonstrate values and encourage positive behavior.
- Encourage healthy relationships with other relatives.
Grandparents and extended family members can be powerful advocates for children and provide the right mixture of encouragement and understanding as they grow and develop. It is important to recognize how their presence can be beneficial to the whole family and the positive effects it can have on the child’s upbringing.
5. Setting Boundaries with Extended Family
Having boundaries with extended family is a key part of raising a child.
- The first step is for parents to have a clear understanding about their family’s values and which behaviors and activities are acceptable.
- It’s important to ensure there is consistency in the rules and expectations for both at home and when visiting extended family.
- Encourage respect for extended family members and their relationship with your child.
When interacting with extended family, it’s important for parents to set the tone. Parents should not let extended family members dominant the conversation and instead focus on allowing their child to express themselves in a safe and respectful environment. Acknowledge the importance of spending time with extended family, but make sure there is an understanding that the primary role in the child’s upbringing is with the parents.
It’s also beneficial to give grandparents or other extended family members an overview of the child’s typical day, which can help in setting the right expectations for activities and behavior. Talking with extended family before a family gathering about how the day might look and the plans moving forward can also be helpful in preventing any surprises or misunderstandings.
Parents should also allow and encourage their child to prepare questions for their extended family, as these interactions can be an important learning opportunity for the child. Equally, it’s important to allow extended family to ask your child questions and share stories from their own experiences. This helps to show your child that everyone has experienced and is entitled to their own point of view, and helps your child to look beyond their own perspective.
Lastly, parents should be mindful of what they are putting out on social media about their child as this is easily accessible by extended family. Aim to create an online presence that showcases your family values in a positive way.
6. Potential Conflicts between Parents and Extended Family
1. Though extended family members are not as closely related to a child as their parents, they can still have a significant role in their upbringing. In addition to providing the child with emotional support and additional sources of advice, extended family members can help provide an additional layer of guidance and discipline. This can be especially helpful if the extended family member lives close to the family and is able to establish a close relationship with the child.
2. Having extended family members involved in a child’s upbringing can also be beneficial for the parents. By having others around to offer care, support, and counsel, parents can feel more secure in their parenting skills and have a trusted support system. In addition, extended family members can provide much needed respite to the primary caregivers, allowing the parents to take a break and recharge.
3. One of the significant members is in regards to discipline. Parents may want to have full authority in disciplining their children, while extended family members may feel differently and not be willing to respect the parental authority. In such cases, both parents and extended family members should strive to come to a compromise so that the child remains disciplined and respectful to both their parents and extended family.
4. It’s also important to respect the boundaries of the family, and ensure that each family unit is respected by both parents and extended family members. For example, in relationships where the extended family may have different religious or ideological beliefs than the parents, extended family must understand that ultimately the parents get to decide how to raise their child and that the extended family should not attempt to impose their views on the parents.
5. In addition, extended family members should be aware of the financial burden the family may be facing and not to assume that the parents will be able to provide additional support. If extended family members are unable to provide additional help, they should be respectful of the decisions the parents are making and not attempt to impose their own expectation and standards upon them.
6. Ultimately, it is important for both parents and extended family members to come to an understanding and agreement when it comes to parenting. This can be achieved through open dialogue, compromise, and respect for each other’s boundaries. This will ensure that a child will be raised in a environment that is well-rounded and supportive, as well as one that encourages love, respect, and understanding.
7. Tips to Facilitate Harmonious Extended Family Dynamics
The extended family is an important aspect of child upbringing, but is often overlooked in the modern world. When two parents are unable to provide enough resources or time for their child, the extended family can be the perfect support system to fill in the gaps. Here are some tips to help you ensure harmonious dynamics within your extended family:
- Establish clear boundaries and responsibilities – Establishing clear roles and boundaries within the extended family helps create expectations and limits that all parties involved can understand. Respect the wishes of the parents and ask for input when making decisions that affect the family.
- Create a welcoming environment – The family dynamic must be hospitable and warm for your child to feel accepted and supported. Invite your extended family for regular visits and gatherings to build healthy relationships.
- Focus on positive reinforcement and communication– Respect and authority should be earned rather than demanded. Use positive reinforcement whenever possible and focus on open communication to bridge gaps in understanding and help resolve disagreements.
- Learn to compromise and accommodate– Disagreements will inevitably arise in any family situation. Find ways to bridge differences in opinion through compromise and accommodation without placing blame or fostering resentment.
- Be a role model– Parents should strive to be responsible and engaged for their child. Show kindness, respect, and understanding to your extended family and your child will follow suit.
The extended family provides an invaluable support system that is necessary for the healthy development of children. By establishing clear boundaries and responsibilities, as well as creating a warm and welcoming environment, you can foster harmonious extended family dynamics and ensure your child’s wellbeing.
8. Key Takeaways from
1. Secure Significant Bonds
Extended family plays a significant role in helping children feel like they have a safe space to turn to in difficult times. Through fostering these lasting connections, children can gain a sense of trust in their surroundings and form affirming relationships with their extended family members.
2. Teach Authority and Discipline
Extended families also make a valuable contribution to helping their children understand authority. Having multiple adults in their lives provides the opportunity to learn the components of an egalitarian relationship where they can develop mutual respect and learn the values of discipline.
3. Offer Support Networks
Extended family also provides a vital support network for children growing up. Without the presence of extended family, children can feel isolated in their home life, not knowing how to seek out help or advice from figures of authority outside of their parents. Having other adults in their lives provides the opportunity to have someone to go to for support and wisdom.
4. Provide Cultural Understanding
By connecting with extended family, children can often learn about the history and values of their ancestors. This broader understanding of culture and religion helps children develop an identity and connect with their roots.
5. Encourage Compassion and Empathy
One of the key messages that extended family can impart to their children is the value of compassion and empathy. By having grandparents and other members of their family to interact with regularly, children are exposed to multiple generations of family life and perspectives, helping them form a more realistic understanding of how different generations can work together.
6. Treasure the Memories
Lastly, by getting to know their extended family, children can begin to create memories together, helping them build a shared bond and a common family history that they can all look back on fondly. Seeing the same faces time after time can help children form strong connections and appreciate the shared family heritage that they are part of.
7. Celebrate Diversity
Extended family members also bring with them their own cultural backgrounds, values, and experiences. Through their relationships with the extended family, children can learn more about the diverse range of life and blend it into their own identity.
8. Develop Multigenerational Patience
Having multiple generations to deal with could make the child more patient with others and the world. If they grow up around a variety of age groups, it’s more likely for children to understand and accept different points of view. They learn that people need time to process things, which will make them more patient in the long run.
Q: What is an extended family?
A: An extended family is a family unit that includes relatives beyond just the nuclear family, including extended family members such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Q: What role does an extended family play in a child’s upbringing?
A: Extended family plays an important role in a child’s upbringing by providing additional guidance and support for both the parents and the child.
Q: What are the benefits of having an extended family?
A: Having an extended family provides children with various benefits including increased feelings of security, greater exposure to multiple cultures, lessons in moral values and judgment, and more opportunities for social interaction.
Q: How can a child benefit from spending time with their extended family?
A: Spending time with extended family members provides a child with positive and unique benefits, including having additional mentors, role models, and sources of guidance and support.
Q: Are extended family members important for helping a child develop emotionally and socially?
A: Yes, extended family members play a significant role in a child’s emotional and social development by providing a wealth of experience and understanding that can’t be found within the nuclear family.
Q: What advice can be given to parents on how to include extended family in their child’s life?
A: Parents should strive to build strong relationships between their child and their extended family members by actively encouraging family gatherings, spending quality time together, and making communication and connection a priority.
Overall, extended family plays an invaluable role in a child’s life. They provide love, attention, and guidance that a child needs to develop into a happy and successful adult. By staying connected with their extended family, children can benefit from the balance and support they need to succeed in life, even in difficult moments.