FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND BONDING
Studies have shown that parents and children are much happier than their non-parent counterparts. [Nicoletta Balbo; Francesco C. Billari; Melinda Mills (2013). “Fertility in Advanced Societies: A Review of Research”. European Journal of Population. 29 (1): 1–38.] Other studies question those conclusions.
As discussed under the Basic Section, family members are also healthier and live an additional 17 years over and above the non-family equivalents. The simple conclusion is that family groups are steps toward being healthy and happy.
Contributions from a man and a woman are required to produce a child. However, the definition of parents used in this website is broader. It includes both biological and non-biological parents that raise one or more children with the proviso that each member considers the others as part of a family. A foster-care parent or guardian may be considered family if the members believe it to be so.
Some people worry whether they would make good parents. Nature provides the answer. Animals have been parenting for millions of years and doing a pretty good job. The fact that you worry about a future the baby indicates you’ll be particularly great.
A more complicated question is whether you want to have a family. This is a human question that is riddled by attacks from the negative thoughts department. The answer is always personal. Ignore the negative thoughts and relax. There is no wrong answer. There is also the option of changing your mind.
There are websites, videos, and books that attempts to give advice about whether someone should start a family, i.e. get married and have children. These studies are only opinions and are subject to the biases and beliefs of the authors.
The definition of children is the son or daughter of a human parent. It includes children who are adopted. An interesting study reported that 68% of parents read to their adopted children whereas only 48% of the parents read to their natural children. The same study showed that 97% of adopted children above 5 years old, knew they were adopted. Adopted children often feel they have the advantage of having two sets of parents.
In this website, children who have conflicting thoughts regarding their sexuality are definitely included. Children are children and they need and give unconditional love. And they will do just fine in the real world out there so quit worrying. History is replete with ancient conquers, scientists, and philosophers who fall into this group.
Some people feel that they should wait until they can afford children. This is a personal decision that has no wrong answer. On the other hand, if you follow this idea it is a possibility that you will never have children. It’s like waiting to fall in love until you can afford it. Carving out segments of one’s life without love or without children suggest a negative approach to life. We are on this earth for such a short time.
How many children should you have? That’s like asking whether someone can have too much love and happiness? Here is a quiz that might help you decide. You’ll need a piece of paper and pencil.
- How many different colors do you like. __
- How many High School classes did you enjoy? ___
- How many vacations do you take each year? ___
- How many birthdays of others do you remember? ___
- How many outdoor activities do you like? ___
- How many pets are ideal at the same time? ___
- How many times do you laugh each day? ___
- How many different dances can you do? ___
- How many favorite food dishes do you like? ___
- How many languages can you speak? ___
Computation: Divide the total number by 10.
There is an instinctive automatic impulse to protect one’s family. There are many subtle actions that parents do without realizing that they are doing it. For example, mothers almost always cradle their young infants on the left side rather than the right side. Why? Some say it is to have the infant close enough to hear the mother’s heart. Others believe it is a protection mechanism. Fathers show the same cradling preference. It does not matter whether the parent is right handed or left handed. [Todd, B.K. & Banerjee, R.A. (2018). Lateralization of infant holding by mothers: a longitudinal evaluation of variations over the first 12 weeks. Laterality: Asymmetries of Brain, Body and Cognition. 21(1). pp. 12- 33.]
A study in Scientific American reported that a specific peptide (oxytocin) released in the mother’s brain that suppresses fear whenever there is a threat to an offspring. The male have similar instincts except the protection is directed to the entire family. Parents, particularly the mothers, know when their baby is not feeling well by the cries. This is not based on something learned; it is something that arises out of instinct. Studies have shown that a mother during rem sleep often sync with the baby.
Parents are known to have a sixth sense in detecting if their child is lying. You may want to let them know when they are young about the studies proving that ability.
A mother’s saliva strengthens the child’s immune system and it is exchanged without the mother knowing it. Studies have shown that a mother can identify her child by scent alone just ten minutes after meeting them. Babies instinctively know that they need milk when hungry and that the mother’s nipple is where to get it.
Elephants instinctively protect their young by keeping the youngest calfs on the inside. When a calf elephant becomes an orphan, the rest of the heard adopt it.
Dolphins create wakes or slip -streams in the water that pulls the calves alongside them.
This means that parents should not worry about whether they are able to raise a child. Most of the important nurturing actions are instinctive. These instincts also apply to adopted children.
[Peer Pressure] After parents, the children’s peers exert the most influence on them. That means a parent must be mindful of all of the friends of each child. It is seldom successful to tell your children to stay away from other children who have bad habits or behaviors. The way to determine who may be a bad influence is to have the friends over for playdates. Then quietly observe everything. The younger they are the easier it is to spot them. A few observations include biters, hitters, disrespectful to you, refuses to share, repeatedly uses foul language, and the like. Once you have spotted the problem children, think of ways of phase them out and phase others in. Some children will listen to you if you tell them not to play with that person anymore. Most will not and it often causes an opposite reaction, particularly the independent children.
The teenage years is more difficult. You must have repeated observations when the friends come over. You might ask them what their goals and aspirations are. Watch them to see if they show respect to others. Do they use foul language without hesitation. Do they put other friends down in disrespectful ways. Do they brag about sexual conquests, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs. Do they play violent video games. Does your child act more negatively after playing with a particular friend. Did you find drugs in your child’s room after the a friend’s visit. Does the friend drive recklessly on multiple occasions.
Does your child allow you to view their social media account. This can be a treasure trove of information. Talk to the parents of other friends and ask them if there are any problem friends in the group. If applicable, do an internet search on why teenagers tattoo their bodies with pictures of death and destruction, or rings through the nose, tongue etc. It may indicate deeper negative issues.
Your duty is to protect your child. Once you have spotted the bad friend, you must take appropriate actions. This is complex and varies with the situations. However, before you take actions, you must tell your child the reasons and with details. It is important that they understand what you want and why. It does not matter, if they disagree. It matters that they know your feelings and your concerns. And, be prepared to negotiate.
[Driving Under the Influence] This is a major issue with teenage children with a driver’s license. It is recommended that you make an agreement with them that they should not drive or ride with anyone who has been drinking or taking drugs. And if they drink or take drugs then they will call you to come and pick them up, or call for a taxi or Uber™ to drive them home. If they do this then you will not punish them for violating the alcohol or drug rules. This agreement can be and will be abused by the teenager as a way to get around the punishment for underage drinking. But, the consequences of a child driving home in an intoxicated state should override the punishment rules.
4. Family Love.
The definition of love is an intense feeling of deep affection. This definition may be sufficient to describe a relationship between adults. But, it is wholly inadequate to describe the love within a family. The amount of love that flows within the family is indescribable. There is a website that captures the essence of love with photos.
There are many elements of love. Sex related issues are not discussed in his website since this topic is covered in many publications, movies, videos, songs, and seminars.
The dictionary describe passion as a strong liking or devotion to some activity, object or concept. That definitoin does not adequately grasp the passion associated with love of family. Passion as it related to family is something that brings great joy while strengthening life’s core values.
6. Mutual Respect.
This means understanding someone else’s beliefs and values and giving them proper attention and respect. This requires “listening,” “openness,” and “patience.” To make sure that you understand you should repeat those beliefs and values such as, “I understand, (and then state the belief or value with specifics)”. This allows the other to correct any mistakes in your understanding. It does not mean that you must agree with their positions.
Allowing family members to experience failures is both exceedingly difficult and unequivocally necessary to learning as long as the activity is not dangerous. Fundamental learning comes more from failures than from successes.
Mutual respect is a very broad topic incorporating most of the individual family relationships. The following are a few examples dealing with difficult situations.
Example 1: Your 16 year old child asks if she can try an opioid with her friends. She will do it in the safety of her friend’s home with her parents supervising.
- [Acknowledge her request.] “You want our permission for you to try an opioid drug at your friend’s house, is that correct?”
- [Thank her for her respect.] “We want to thank you for coming to us with you request. It shows that you trust our opinions and us. This shows great character and respect. Thank you.” A hug is highly recommended.
- [Get more information.] Here are a few questions that might be asked. “What kind of opioid do you intend to take?” “Is it a prescription or from a street seller?” “Do you know if it contains fentanyl?” These types of questions are for information and do not judge the reasoning.
- [Determine why?] “Why do you want to try this drug?” “Are you having any problems in school or with friends or something else?” “Have you done this before?” “What happened?” These are probative questions and are hard to ask. But, they need to be asked to get a sense of the seriousness of the problem. The hidden message behind these questions show your love and concern. If your daughter does not want to answer the questions, respect her reasoning.
- [Determine how much she knows.] “What is your understanding as to the dangers?” “What are some of the consequences?” “Is it addictive?” “Have you made any internet search on these issues?” “What did you discover?” If she has not made an internet search, have her make one. It is important that she discover as much information about the subject on her own. It is a valuable lesson on self-learning.
- [Determine who else knows.] “Is there anyone else that knows of this experimentation you are contemplating?” “Did you discuss this with others?” “Is it on Facebook™ or other social media site?” “Are you aware of the consequences of this information getting out in the public, from you or from your friends?” Advise her not to put anything on social media about this issue, and ask her to search her social media sites to see if there is anything posted. Advise her that there are methods of deleting information from social media accounts. The deleting procedures are usually addressed within the social media platform. Youtube™ has many step-by-step videos on how to remove data and posts.
- [Ask her how she feels about it.] “What is your opinion about taking this drug?” It is critical that you listen with an open open mind to have any chance of understanding her reasons.
- [Give her your opinion and the reasons.] “We are opposed to you taking this drug.” “It is dangerous.” “It could be contaminated.” “It is addictive.,” etc.
- [Consequences and punishment.] This decision is personal to each parent. Grounding the daughter and forbidding her to associate with the friend, are valid options. Sometimes children want this outcome so that they can blame their refusal to participate on their parents.
This is a serious topic. Therefore, consultation with a licensed psychologist for assistance might be appropriate. But, the fact that your daughter came to you for advice shows that she is intelligent and respectful and will probably follow your recommendations. A far more difficult situation would exist when the discovery of the planned activity came from other sources.
Example 2: You have discovered that your 16 year old son is going to have sex with his 16 year old girlfriend tomorrow night.
- [Acknowledge the Issue.] “I understand that you intend to have sex with your girlfriend tomorrow night, is that true?”
- [Lie or no Lie] If he says no. Then, you need to apply your lie-detector skills. The vast number of parents, particularly the mother, can detect when their child is lying. If the internal lie detector supports your son, then the conversation may be short. Information from others should not be considered more credible that information from you son.
- [Thank him for his honesty.] “We want to thank you for not lying to us. It shows that you trust our opinions and us. Thank you.”
- [Ask for Information] “Do you have anything you want to tell us or ask us about sex.” Be prepared to have an honest discussion with your son. If you have already had the “sex talk,” then you may want to skip over those topics that do not apply. If you have not had the “talk,” this would be a good time to delve into the subject. It would be wise to have both parents present during this discussion. Women and men have different perspectives about sex and impart different types of information. This is often the most difficult topic to discuss with your children. Yet, it is one of the most important discussions you should have. You need to cover topics such as intimacy verses sex, pregnancy, contraceptives, legal issues, sexually transmitted diseases, marriage and the potential psychological effects of abortions.
- [Lie or no Lie] If he says yes.
- [Thank him for his honesty.] “We want to thank you for not lying to us. It shows that you trust our opinions and us. That shows great character and respect. Thank you.”
- [Get more information.] “We believe we know why, but sometimes what we may not have all the information. Are you being pressured to have sex either by your friends or by your girlfriend? We want to make sure you understand the consequences.” This moves into a detailed conversation of the “sex talk” discussed above.
- [Her Parents Knowledge] “Do her parents know?” If they do not know, then encourage you son to persuade his girlfriend to advise her parents. Whether you tell the girl friends parents is a difficult decision that only you can answer under the circumstances and laws of your jurisdiction.
- [Lie or no Lie] If he says no and he is lying.
- [Do Not Thank him for his honesty.] If you thank him for being honest when he is lying then thanking him compounds the problem. It is best not to say anything in this regard.
- [Get more information.] “We would like to talk to you about sex and consequences anyway.” Go through the information on the topics discussed above.
- [Determine who else knows.] “We’d like to talk to you about talking or bragging about having sex about having sex with the girlfriend.” Then proceed to advise him not tell his friends. Rumors always spread and are usually exaggerated. Discuss the traumatically effects of such a disclosure. Never post such type of information on social media site. People have committed suicide under these conditions.
- [Give him your opinion and the reasons.] “We are opposed to you having sex. It can have serious consequences.” Then give him your reasons and consequences.
- [Consequences and punishment.] This decision is personal to each parent. Grounding son and forbidding him to see the girlfriend are options. Often children want this outcome so that they can blame their refusal to participate on their parents.
Example 3: Your 18 year old son has advised you that he does not intend to go to college.
- [Acknowledge the Issue.] “I understand that you do not want to go to college. Is it any college and is it at any time.” It might be that he is simply uncertain about which college, or what major or holding out for one year.
- [Thank him for his respect.] “We want to thank you for telling us your plans. It shows that you trust us. This shows respect. Thank you.” A hug is highly recommended.
- [Determine why?] Why have you chosen not to go to college? How long have you had this idea? Is it that you have not decided on a major? Or go to a particular college. Or you want to sit out a year or so? Do you want to save us money? Do you want to avoid incurring the college debt? There are too many relevant questions to list them here.
- [Ask him if he wants your Advice?] The urge to give him your advice is overwhelming. Wait until he asks for your opinion. If he does not ask, then ask him. “Do you want my advice?” If he says yes, then give him your opinions. If he says no, then respect his decision at this time. In any event be prepared to talk about how you can help him with his career choice. You might find areas for compromise. There is always time for him to change his mind.
- [Give your Son’s decision Due Respect.] Be prepared to agree with your son. He is an adult and his education is his decision not yours. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did not graduate from college. Had they continued on to receive a degree both would have likely had a different outcome. The best thing you can do is support your son, and give him respect for his decision.
Your son’s decision to go to Hollywood and become an actor or join a rock band might be challenging. However, there are many multi-millionaires who first flopped in Hollywood or in the music industry.
The dictionary defines trust as the belief in the reliability, truth, or strength of someone or something. It is important to point out that trust is a perception rather than a fact. A person who tells you something is trustworthy if they believe what they are saying is true. The converse is also true. It is improper to call someone untrustworthy just because they were wrong.
People can be trustworthy and wrong at the same time.
Example. If your 6 year old son said that he did not eat the cookie, you must investigate his state of mind before questioning his honesty. Challenging a child’s honesty can be devastating. A reasonable investigation is therefore required. The first question is “Did you eat a cookie?” Then ask for some of the details. How did you get cookie crumbs on your mouth? Were you the only one in the kitchen? Is there something I do not know? Then you may make a judgment call. However, in this example, a six year old should not be too severely shamed for lying or being dishonest. Almost all 6 year olds lie from time to time.
[Overhearing Little Lies by Parents] Most children learn about lying from the parents. For example, they may over hear a parent say they are too busy to do something and then observe them plot down in front of the TV. Polls have shown that the average adult lies 42 times a week. Chances are that the children overhear half of those lies, and the younger the child is the more likely they will overhear them.
[Do not Lie Directly to Child] It is important not to lie directly to your children. If your child asks if they can go the park and play, don’t say the park is closed, the car is out of gas, or you don’t have time, when those facts are untrue. It is best to tell them the truth, such as: “I don’t want you to go right now.” Sometimes the truth details are too stressful or reveal false fears, such as “I don’t want you to go because I am afraid to expose you to dangerous strangers.” Telling your kids your unreasonable fears is not healthy since it may cause them to develop those fears. The first statement adequately covers the proper response and is truthful.
Another situation exists when a child asks to visit a deceased grandparent. This situation is common. The parents are the final arbitrator as to when and how you tell a child about death. However, you should avoid lying such as, “we can’t visit them today maybe next week.” You should tell them the truth or say “No. I will talk to you about this on ____, or when you are older.” Death of a parent, close relative, or friend is extremely important and emotional to a child. Lying about this issue can be detrimental to the concept of trust. If you child needs extra protection, it would be wise to consult with an expert on children with special needs about the issue.
[Maintain Secrets] Trust also includes maintaining the confidences. In general, secrets shared by one member that relate to issues not involving the other members should be maintained confidential. There are many exceptions, the biggest one relates to health and safety.
- Secrets between family members raises many problems and should be avoided. Simply things like gifts, surprise parties, vacations, is normally okay and harmless. Telling a child about important matters like divorce, terminal illness, changing locations, etc. and to keep it a secret from other family members is not appropriate.
- It is best to have a general rule that there will be no secrets between members relating to family matters. There are a few exceptions such a matters that are embarrassing, etc.
- All shared family secrets should be maintained confidential and not shared with people outside the household. As with all secrets, there are exceptions involving are health and safety issues.
[Privacy Matters] When a child is an infant there is constant contact so that the issue of privacy is not a problem.
- The Adolescence period (age 10 to 13) is a transition period. The children’s bodies are changing and they become curious. Girls typically develop 1 to 2 years earlier than boys. Some girls begin having their period around 12 -14 and about 2-3 years after the onset of breast development. During this pre-teen period there is a need for privacy.
- A conversation about privacy is a good idea to avoid conflicts. The parents need to provide an announcement before entering the child’s bedroom when the door is closed in non-emergency situations. There are many books and publications on how to handle privacy matters that provide guidance in this area.
- Middle adolescence (14 to 17) the amount of privacy needed increases. During this period the children become more and more independent. They also become more combative and difficult. This is not a bad thing. Children who are difficult are often the most successful in the adult life. It is a part of maturing. Children that are caught bringing drugs or weapons into their rooms may require unannounced room searches.
- Two master rules should be adopted. The first rule is that the only parents make the rules. The Second rule is that only the parents enforce the rules.
The normal definition is a strong feeling of support or allegiance. Loyalty to family members is much stronger. Most parents will protect their children with their lives if needed. There should be no ranking of importance between children.
[Priority Family over Non-family Events] Most families give first priority to family matters over events outside the family. For example, a birthday of a family member often takes priority over invitations to super-bowl parties. Giving family members this type of priority does not go unnoticed. It is one of the strongest actions that can be taken to strengthen a family bond.
[Advocating on Child’s Behalf] Standing up for a child in times of conflict is an act of loyalty. It is exceedingly important even if it is a minor event. In fact the minor events are often more important since it boldly states that I will always protect you no matter what even when the child is wrong. This does not mean that the parent must support wrongful conduct. They should not. But in every circumstance, there are usually hidden attributes. Take for example, your son pushed another boy to the ground during a school recess. The parent does not have to condone the pushing, in order to support the son. It might be that the son was protecting someone else. Maybe he was defending himself. Maybe he was provoked. That child will remember your defense for the rest of his or her life.
Practice Exercise. What position can you take when your 8 year old daughter spit on another classmate during a school recess? Can you think of anything you can argue?
This is very hard since spitting on someone appears indefensible. But, maybe not. How about the following:
1. What if your daughter had been spit on by the same classmate and she complained to the teacher who did nothing about it. One could argue that although spitting is not appropriate, neither should a teacher sanction spitting by inaction.
2. What if there was a spitting contest and the spit accidentally strayed. The argument could be that there was no intent to spit on a classmate. Although spitting contests should be discouraged, that is more of an issue for the recess monitor. Here, there was no intent to spit on a classmate.
[Divided Loyalties] A parent should not divide loyalties between children, or parcel out loyalties depending on grades or school performances. Every child is marvelously different. A child being elected class president should receive no more attention or loyalty than a child that struggles making average grades. Thomas Edison had a couple years of home schooling and had a difficult time keeping a job. He had one thing that made him great—an inexhaustible drive. How can one compare an inexhaustible drive with being a valedictorian or class president? You can not.
Steve Jobs was disliked by his high school classmates and had to change schools. He dropped out of college. But he had an inexhaustible almost arrogant drive. Edison and Jobs both had attributes that were contrary to societal standards. Societal standards are based on what is average or expected, not what is exceptional.
Traditions are important in creating, maintaining, and advancing family bonds. They are not essential, but without traditions family life would not be as enjoyable. Traditions also impart a somber seriousness that punctuate the importance of a family. There are pubic as well as private traditions.
- Marriage Ceremony. The marriage represents the beginning of a family and the ceremony celebrates the sanctity of the union. There are legal obligations that attach to the ceremony, but this section deals with the tradition aspects. The amount of money spent is not particularly relevant. But the celebration with friends and relatives play a role. The wedding vows are important as it creates and acknowledges promises between each person. Interviews with hundreds of couples who had long happy marriages attribute many factors to the success. One that stands out is the wedding ceremony. All remembered almost every detail, from the vows, the best man and the maid of honor, the first dance, and the wedding cake. A common expression is that if you remember something fifty years later, it is important.
- Ceremonies Involving Births. These types of ceremonies are common throughout history and civilizations. The Navajo People have a Blessingway Ceremony to celebrate birth. France have elaborate celebrations for a newborn. A Taoist priest in China whispered prayers in the ear of the mother as she is giving birth. The polar Eskimos allowed the father to cut the umbilical cord. The ancient Indonesians believed that it is good luck to have the baby’s first cry be at home. In Hawaii the birth is announced by the beating of drums. In ancient Greece there was a ceremonial feast on the fifth day after the birth. During the birth itself, the Greeks believed knots in the delivery room were unlucky. Hopi Native Americans believed that the true parents of a newborn was earth as the mother and the corn plant as the father and the humans were the surrogates to help the new life.
- Religious Ceremonies. Almost all religions have a ceremony related to marriages and births. The religious marriage ceremonies are well known. Ceremonies involving children are not as well known. The Muslim tradition involved shaving the baby’s head within the first few days after birth and continue for three years. In Judaism the male children are circumcised on the 8th day after birth. Baptisms are performed in most Christian religions. The Hindus pierced the babies ears between 1 and 3 years old in a ritual called Karnavedha to protect them from evil. In Shinto tradition the child is taken to a family shrine within 30 to 100 days after birth.
- Dine Together. Many families have a tradition of eating together. This allows conversations about each other’s ups, downs, friends, sports, and general life events. This is one of the best family traditions. It provides bonding together, knowing who are the children’s friends, what stresses affect them, etc. Eating together 5 days a week is ideal, but with hectic schedules, it may be limited to 1 day a week. It is preferable to have the longer dinner meal as the designated family meal. Outside activities with others are not nearly as important as bonding with family members and should take a back seat to the meals. There are always work-arounds.
- Family Talent Shows. These kinds of presentations are important on many levels. It teaches the children how to interact with others and how to be creative. It is a golden opportunity for the parents to watch and listen. Those plays provides incredible insights into how each child designs, organizes, and performs. Next to the eating together this is the second most important tradition. Each child’s birthday is a great time to celebrate with a talent show. Christmas provides a good time for a play with relatives and friends present to provide a supporting audience.
- Bedtime Stories. This is a must for the pre-school and grade school children. It provides a great source for learning new words and understanding reading comprehension. It also provides one-on-one time with a parent. The parent discovers which types of stories interest their child. It also provides a wonderful time to hear endearing questions from an uninhibited child that warms your insides. Many of those questions will be remembered 50 years later.
- Special Things. A secret handshake, a family hug, a family motto, a favorite food, etc. Obtaining a driver’s license is a big thing for teenagers that merits a special party. Allowing the children to pick out their rooms when moving to a new house may give the children a sense of control over where they will be spending the next 5 to 10 years. Some families bury a time capsule with mementos to be opened upon a certain day or event such as a marriage, etc. Making a wish before blowing out the candles is common in the United States. Measuring the height of each child on a doorway with a grove and a date is world wide. The youngsters always appreciate Easter egg hunts and carving pumpkins. Some parents take their children to a different national park each year. The son’s first trip to the barbershop wiht a parent should be captured on video. The general rule is that the more you do with your children the more they will reciprocate with love and honor.