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How does your family function?

16 July
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Families look very different these days to the traditional married couple with kids.

The recently published “Families: Then and Now” report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies revealed that one in four families are now classified as ‘non-intact’, which is up from just one in 10 families in 1980.

The most common type of ‘non-intact’ family is a single parent household, most often a separated mother and her children.

The next most common type in this category are step-families where all children are stepchildren and blended families where at least one child is the product of the current parent relationship.

Yep, it can get complicated!

We used to ask kids how many brothers and sister they had. Now an equally valid question is: “How many mums and dads do you have?” A sign of the changing times!

Families Studies Institute director, Professor Alan Hayes, maintains that the make-up of the family matters less than what goes on within it. He told the Melbourne Herald Sun: “The form of a family has changed quite a bit, but what’s more important than form is how a family functions – whether they’re places in which people are safe and children are protected, well-nurtured and developed well.”

Each family form presents its own unique challenges for parents, but as Hayes pointed out, there are some child-rearing fundamentals that parents need to adhere to.

Regardless of family form I believe parents should strive to make sure their families are:

1.Rich in love, with adults who have time for and are supportive of kid’s goals: Kids need to feel loved. They need adults who make time for them and adults who will help them achieve their goals.

2.Stable, predictable and chaos-free: A stable, chaos-free family environment provides the necessary background for kids to develop, grow and take risks. Kids crave a sense of predictablity in their lives.

3.Rich in supportive, social interactions: Kids need to be exposed to a variety of social experiences with adults and peers so they can hone their social skills. Similarly, they need plenty of opportunities to do things for themselves at home, at school and in their neighbourhoods.

4.Psychologically safe – mistakes are not thrown in their faces: Kids need to grow up in an encouraging environment that allows them to make mistakes without fear of being constantly reminded of them, which creates a fear of failing. When kids fear failure, they act in safe ways and are less likely to stretch themselves.

5.Places of spontaneity, curiosity and fun: Healthy families enjoy each other’s company, or at least pull together when the chips are down. This seems to happen more in families where parents can lighten the tension, inject some humour and inspire kids to be interested in things and people other than themselves.

What else is important in family life? What are some parenting fundamentals that are important regardless of the form of a family?

Let me know what you think?

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