FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Family Relationships

Family Relationships are supported by scientific investigations.   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. 

a. Parents in Family Relationships.

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.  

One of the major strains on a family relationship is that most 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. 

b. Children in Family Relationships.

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.

  1. How many different colors do you like?    __
  2. How many High School classes did you enjoy?    ___
  3. How many vacations do you take each year?   ___
  4. How many birthdays of others do you remember?   ___
  5. How many outdoor activities do you like?   ___
  6. How many pets are ideal at the same time?   ___
  7. How many times do you laugh each day?   ___
  8. How many different dances can you do?    ___
  9. How many favorite food dishes do you like?   ___
  10. How many languages can you speak?   ___  

Your answer has no effect on your choice.  That’s why it is called a personal choice.

c. Protection of the Family Relationships.

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 has 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 sound of 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 calf on the inside.  When a calf elephant becomes an orphan, the rest of the heard adopt it.  

Dolphins create wakes or slipstreams 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. 

One way to determine who may be a bad influence is to have the friends over for play dates.  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.  Your obligations are to your 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 a friend’s visit?  Does the friend drive recklessly?  These are things for you to observe so that you can make informed decisions on what is best for your children.

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. 

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 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. 

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.  

d. Family Love.

Love is a foundational element in Family Relationships. Love is defined as 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.

e. Passion within Family Relationships.

The dictionary describe passion as a strong liking or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.  That definition 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.

f. 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 example may illustrate one potential problem that parents sometimes face.  

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 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.  You will have other opportunities to discuss this.  Chances are he already knows what our opinion is.  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. 

g. Trust is a critical part of Family Relationships.

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-old kids lie from time to time. 

[Overhearing Little Lies by Parents]  Most children learn about lying from the parents.  For example, they may overhear a parent say they are too busy to do something and then observe them sit 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 to 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 matter that is 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. 

h. Loyalty.

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.  Giving up a treasured world-series party to be with your son or daughter will broadcast unconditional love and priority loud and clear.  Try it.    It is one of the strongest actions that can be taken to strengthen a family bond.  

Robin Williams in a movie entitled Good Will Hunting, told his problem patient about the time he gave up going to the last game of the world series to be with his future wife.

[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.   This does not mean that the parent must support wrongful conduct.  They should not.  

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. 

[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 was fired from many jobs.  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 cannot.

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. 

i. Traditions.

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 plays 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 whispers prayers in the ear of the mother as she is giving birth.  The Eskimos allow 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 were 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 baby’s 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 the children’s friends are, 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 provide 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.  It is a good idea to record those talent shows show that you can play them at her wedding party.

[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.]  These may include a secret handshake, a family hug, a family motto, a favorite food, etc.    Obtaining a driver’s license is a big deal for teenagers that merits a special party.  Allowing the children to pick out their rooms when moving to a new house may give them 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 practiced worldwide.  Most youngsters 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 with 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. 

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