Families today are scattered across the globe. More often than not, the distance leads to a disconnection between relatives from extended families. The traditional Indian joint family structure has already begun to give way to the formation of nuclear families.
Children who grow up in nuclear families have only their parents to rely on. This has led to more communication as well as sharing of responsibilities between family members. But as it is said, it takes a village to raise a child. Not everything that a child needs to learn can be taught to her by her father or mother. Every interaction that she has with others, who are close to her, can help mould her future and influence her. But it’s up to parents to act as the connecting cord between their children and the many nuclear families in their family tree.
Besides, this also helps their progeny learn about their roots, culture, heritage and gives them a sense of belonging.
In nuclear families, parents must adequately play their part in order to make children aware of their roots and their true identity.
Improving relationships with extended family members is not very difficult and neither is it very strenuous. It does require some imagination, at times. These tips should help get you started.
Telephone and video chats Talking to their uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents on a regular basis will help kids get to know them better. Video chat enables visual cues and allows you to share a lot more than just speaking on the phone.
Letters and e-mails There was a time when children wrote handwritten letters to their grandparents who lived miles away. With e-mails, things have gotten easier. Encouraging correspondence will not only cultivate their writing habit, but it will also facilitate an exchange of ideas and thoughts between the child and her extended family.
Photo Albums Leafing through old picture albums with your kids will be a fun experience for them. They will get to know about people, times and places from the past. This helps lay down a strong foundation in building relationships and also helps them to understand their roots better.
Reunions Set a time at least once in the year for family reunions and get-togethers. This could be during birthdays, anniversaries or even during important festivals.
Games Play guessing games with the children by showing them a picture or saying the name of a family member and then asking them to recognise who it is. You can even make a family tree together with photographs and pin it up somewhere for your kid to keep track of. And keep adding to it every time there is a new birth in the family.
Paper cards Get the children to make cards for every special occasion and then send them to the family member who is celebrating. It will help your children know and remember how important it is to wish a family member on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Attend family functions Sometimes because of the pressures of work we tend to miss out on family functions like baby showers, weddings and other ceremonies. Avoid this if possible. Such occasions are perfect opportunities to show kids how much you like mingling with your family. Only by example can you teach them the importance of being there for family.
Encourage the use of your mother tongue Talk to them in your first language and encourage them to not just speak, but to read and write it as well. No matter what their medium of instruction in school is, they should be taught their mother tongue. And they will respect it only if they see their parents respecting it.
Celebrate your traditions These might not only be important festivals but also things that you did with your parents as kids. It could be going for a picnic every third Sunday of the month or even baking a cake once every month.
Visit your native place Not only will they know where they really come from but will also get the chance to know people who they have only spoken to or just heard about.
Community bonding and rituals Encourage them to become a part of groups from the community to which you belong. Teach them to respect your community’s rituals, even if you do not practise them at home yourself.
This was first published in the July 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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