There is a lot of truth in the saying that, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’. It is a lucky family that has such an extended ‘village’ for family support these days. With the breakup of the joint family, this in most cases deprives young & new parents of the accumulated wisdom of grandparents and other close relatives, making parenting a tougher job.
In the past, extended families played a big part in helping the new & young parents. Family elders & grandparents were often present to help with the new baby. Extended families usually lived under the one roof or just down the road. Children saw their relatives all the time & were cared for without any fuss.
However, today’s extended family is often spread out across around the country or even the world. Kids may be walking, driving or travelling by train or air before they meet some of their extended family members. Often young children cannot even recognise their close relatives as they have hardly ever spent time with them. Many times, they extended family members may live close by but, there is no denying that families choose to live much more privately than they did once. In some cases, extended families give each other day to day assistance with household tasks, childcare or shopping. More often, each branch of the family retains its basic independence.
If you find yourself & your family without extended family support, build your own extended family.
Building an extended family
An extended family unit today is composed of not just children, father & mother, but all the others in the life of the child, including pets. The present day family is built around the maids, neighbours, family friends besides of course the maternal & paternal grandparents.
You can help your toddler begin to understand the idea of extended family by creating a special ‘My Family’ photo album with pictures & names. When he is a little older, you can begin to illustrate the nature of the relationships with a family tree.
You could hold or initiate family get-togethers to re-establish a more integrated sense of family. Holidays & birthdays provide good opportunities for any family members who live close by to get together.
A family cluster is a way to create a surrogate family. Several families meet regularly & become emotionally close. They share values, attitudes & tasks. They go together on vacations, picnic or car pools. For children, this provides an enlarged number of significant adults & playmates.
Grandparents – God’s gift to children:
The best secondary parents are of course the child’s grandparents. You can feel completely comfortable leaving your child with them for long periods. Everyone needs to have access to both grandparents & grandchildren in order to be a full human being.
The relationship between the grandparents & the grandchildren are simple. Grandparents are short on criticism & long on love. They are a little bit parents, a little teachers & largely best friends. You should praise them if you think they have done a good job or have helped you with your child. But, one should not expect too much from them & be considerate with their age related restrictions.
Maids are the secondary caregivers in the lives of the children. Having help around allows you to learn more about the child & spend more time with him as the household or other time consuming tedious work is taken care of. For working women, maids or nannies play the role of a secondary mother, looking after their children in their absence. However, with changing times you need to be very careful about the help you employ to ensure the safety of your child. They way your child is treated in your absence by the maid is also a point of concern for working parents.
Once it’s time for the working mothers to get back to work after maternity leave, those who have family support look to parents or in-laws to pitch in. For the others, a crèche can fill in the absence of the mother. Parents can trust that their child will be looked after while they are at work. Even if the child is unwell, parents are just a call away. Most crèche’s these days’ meals & beds to sleep in for the children.
Nuclear families often benefit from a cordial relationship with neighbours particularly when their children are still small. Most neighbours are happy to babysit children especially if their own children are of the similar age group as the working parents.
Parenting is not a solo game. You need people around your children who are supportive & encouraging. Seeking advice, help & support from others gives you ideas & positive reinforcements you need to be a good parent & to take care of yourself.