When I ask “why is extended family important?” I am asking this question in relation to your child and not you! Extended families of the parents are very important in the child’s life. I know some of you might say that I don’t get on with my extended family… or I do get on with some of them but not all of them. Some of you might say, I get on with my extended family but not with my spouse’s extended family! ‘My in laws are actually outlaws’. I hear all that loud and clear.
But despite all the above, I would like to underline to you the importance of an extended family in your child’s life.
Grandparents of your child
If you consider your parents or your mother-in-law and father-in-law as extended family, then it is very important that your child spends time with them. This should be done on a frequent basis if possible. Grandparents can teach what parents can’t. For example, they can teach them, family traditions or culture like mother tongue, family festivals, and family histories. Children like story telling. Grandparents are very good at story telling especially stories which have a moral at the end.
Uncles, Aunties and cousins
Every relation your child has gives him/her something new. Also, if the child is able to bond with different relatives he/she will feel more secure in his/her environment. If the parents have siblings, then children should be encouraged to mingle with uncles, aunties, cousins etc. This is especially beneficial if you have got only one child. Children need the company of other children. Children learn faster from other children- this is where bonding with cousins can prove to be beneficial to your child.
Uncles and aunties can bring different things in the child’s life, maybe because the mind-set of the uncles/aunties is different from the parents or it could be because the uncles /aunties are more experienced due to having older children.
Look at the bigger picture
If you are not keen to see your extended family too often, then make an effort at least once or twice a year. Try to look at the bigger picture. Think of all the benefits your children will have when they will get a chance to know and bond with your extended family. I believe that children have a right to form and maintain their own relations. If you do not get on with your child’s aunt, that doesn’t mean that your child shouldn’t bond with his/her aunt.
A sense of belonging
With the extended feeling, children feel a sense of belonging, and this makes them feel secure. This is especially true in regard to Grandparents. They will get the love and attention of other people.
Extended families make festivals merrier
Even though you dislike your extended family, you would have to admit that more the merrier especially during festivals, whether it is Christmas, Diwali, Eid or Hanukkah. Also, children will learn to enjoy your cultural festivals.
Children learn how to care for others
Children will see how the parents behave towards the extended family, they will learn how to look after others, how to think of others and be selfless etc. This is especially true when they see you (parents) caring and looking after your parents (Grandparents).
Your child will learn to bond with people other the family
Your child will learn how to bond and maintain relations with people other than the parents and friends. This will be a huge learning curve for your child.
After the Grandparents have passed on
Even after the Grandparents have passed on, your child will still get the love and attention of the uncles, aunties and cousins. They will still have a ‘family’ outside of their parents and siblings and so will you!
If you feel the extended family are spoiling your children
If you feel the Grandparents are spoiling your children, remember every Grandparent has the right to spoil their grandchildren. Every child has the right to get spoilt. Maybe, even you were spoilt by your Grandparents!
In case, you feel that some members of the extended family are spoiling your children in ways which are unacceptable to you or if they are teaching something contradictory to what you teach them, then you should approach the member and explain to them in a calm manner that this is not acceptable to you and to refrain from repeating it again with your child.
You should also explain to your child (in case of contradictory teachings from the extended family) why you are teaching them, what you are teaching them.
Indifferences with other members should be dealt with amicably, peacefully and with maturity.
Every family has its own share of problems. Rise above it. Be the bigger person.
Responsibility is yours
It is the parent’s responsibility ultimately, to discipline their child and give them the right guidance! Filter things out of your child’s life in relation to the extended family. You decide what is appropriate and what is not!
You will grow as a person
By making this effort for your child, of dealing with people you do not get on with, you will grow as a person. You will learn to be more resilient and accepting of other people’s faults.
You are your child’s role model
Even though you feel that your child hasn’t noticed anything or doesn’t understand anything about family politics, he/she can pick on your vibes very well!
Benefits are immense
Remember the benefits of an extended family are immense for your child, so do not get deterred by the negative aspects!
Not only the children but parents benefit also from extended families. Parents can also get guidance about their children from experienced parents in the extended family.
What are your views about the influence of the extended family on your child? What difficulties have you faced from the extended family in regard to your child? Please share via comment box.