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What It Means To Be A Family.

Updated on April 17, 2017
Juliet Stewart profile image

Juliet Austin- Is a retired Rehabilitation Counselor, her writing attempts to address issues most Families experience.

What Comprises A Family.

A Traditional Family:

A Family is one that comprises the unit we are born into, or the one we choose to be a part of. It is the invisible cord that connects us and sometimes forces us to stay connected, for want of caring, and love. The strength of each Family depends on the Matriarch or Patriarch, ability to pull each individual into the fold or circle, any discord within the Family unit should be handled as a Family unit as each individual's action affects the fluidity of the continuum, and the part each individual plays in the Family Unit.

When we speak of Family, We tend to think of the accepted norm, the Mother, Father, and Children that result from their Union. Next, we add grandparents, Aunt's Uncles, Cousins (x) times removed, Grand Aunts/Uncles, We even venture further by adding Great Grand Parents, and so on. In other words, it's the Family we are born into.

Non-Traditional Family:

A non-Traditional Family comprises the same or similar makeup as does a Traditional Family, however, the major difference is, that we are normally not born into that Family. It's a Family created out of want. In the case of Adoption, Stepparent household, and even now has changed to include, the Gay and Lesbian Population, in which the role of Parents is not defined by gender per se, but out of the need to take on a gender-specific role.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 2010. "Of the 88.8 million children of householders, 93 percent were biological children. There were approximately twice as many stepchildren (4.2 million) as adopted children (2.1 million)".

As expected, the Non-Traditional family household is on the rise, as divorce, the fact that more people are waiting a lot longer prior to tying the knot, or choosing not to get Married but opting to have Children anyway. A one Parent home is becoming an acceptable norm within our current Society. According to Nigel Maynard, "The number of female-headed households with no husband present rose slightly to 14 million. So did the number of male householders with no wife present, although this represents a smaller group at just 5.2 million. Finally, non-family households totaled 37 million. "The Rise Of Non-Traditional Households", according to U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

But what is the role of our Family nucleus

(The use of the term Nucleus and Unit will be used interchangeably throughout this article to identify, Non-Traditional/ Traditional Family).

In any Family, It is expected, that: Unconditional love, protection, understanding, and sometimes Financial support, will be forthcoming, right?

Unconditional Love- Can be defined as a feeling of closeness, warmth, compassion, and the general knowledge that no matter what happens you will always have emotional support. Just because you care. It is the kind of love that does not, even when a crime is committed, diminish that love. Love although long suffering at times, does not mean you will or should uphold with illegal activities. However, emotional support can be a source of strength for the individual or individuals.

Non Traditional Family. Personal picture's, you may not use without written consent.
Non Traditional Family. Personal picture's, you may not use without written consent.

According to U.S.A. Census Bureau. How many Children resided in Non Traditional Homes?

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You Were Supposed To Protect Me

"Should Parents be Given a License Prior to Having Children". With age comes wisdom. Whoever came up with that Title is spot on. As with any license, People who are qualified, will and can fail any test, while the unqualified sometimes have the ability to memorize and mimic actions necessary to ensure that they make it. My Children tell me I'm a great Mom, however, if anyone had told me Years ago that I needed to take a test prior to becoming a Parent, I would have failed miserably. Some experiences cannot be taught, and must absolutely be learned.

Protection, as it concerns a Family unit implies that as Parents, the protection physically, Mentally, or Emotionally, is guaranteed, realizing, of course, that outside influences may determine if Parents can live up to that daunting a task. It appears that; that is not the case, often times we see reports of abuse by one or more Parent, specifically targeted at one or more Child/Children. In some cases, all the Children are at risk.

As adult's we understand that sometimes "bad things can happen to good People", through no fault of the Family unit. A Child, however, cannot conceive of a Parent or Parents, not being or possessing superhuman strength.

Child abuse cases seem to be more prevalent in the News and on Social Media sites. For some Parents, the unwritten ethical guarantee that came with the badge they were given, after the birth of their Child/ Children; appears to be tarnished. No longer does it guarantee safety and protection it no longer seems to be passing muster.

Personal picture, you may not use or distribute.
Personal picture, you may not use or distribute.

How to help stem or lessen Sibling Rivalry

Understanding your Child/Children should go hand in hand with unconditional love and protection. When love is tempered with protection, then ultimately, there is a sense of Family, of fitting in. Understanding comes from knowing your Child/Children, their likes, dislikes, and because they are individuals, it is necessary to learn the personality of each that is the easy part requiring just a few minutes of your time and real one-on-one attention.

Sibling Rivalry as defined by Webster's Dictionary is competition between siblings especially for the attention, affection, and approval of their parents. A very straight forward definition to a very complex set of behaviors.

What you do for One Do be Prepared to Also Do For The Others

To Make A Child Happy: Love and Attention are sometimes enough. Spending quality time with each Child individually is essential. The difficult part is getting them to trust you enough to be open about their feelings, this will develop over time as you teach them to speak freely, to ask questions and wait for a response.

If there are multiple Children in the Family unit, it's often times difficult to have a one-hour long discussion or an hour long one on one time with Children. Especially if both Parents work outside the home. In cases where this may be an issue, dinnertime is a great way to ensure you give individual attention. Outside activities may at times preclude us from a Daily sit down together, what I find worked for the busy Parents and Children is this developing a schedule that indicates when and what activities each Child has, and scheduling Dinner to meet the Family needs. My Ex-Husband, although he couldn't cook, when my Schedule called for me to be at work late or School conflicted he would purchase the meal, which wasn't very often, once or twice per Month, until I retired. We worked around a difficult Schedule. Dining together also teaches Social skills, table etiquette and allowed us a glimpse into our Children's Lives.

Raising five Children is a difficult task, raising them while Working a full-time Job and attending School full time, daunting. My secret to ensuring communication involved a simple old fashioned egg timer. Each Child had until the sand filtered to the bottom to tell about their Day. While the Child who had the floor, so to speak was regaling us with the highlight of their Day, no one else was allowed to speak. We encouraged questions and laughter if appropriate. It worked for us.

At least Once a Month my Husband and I would trade off taking our Daughters or Sons on Dates. Each Child was given the opportunity to choose something fun or School related. Since we were also on a budget, It was important that the event is free or of minimal cost, most activities were predetermined to allow for budgeting and conflicts as it relates to our schedule.

Time Management

When raising Children It's important to make sure your Children come first. Their needs are the most important thing a Parent should be concerned about. Being tired, or having a long Day at Work is really not an excuse. Children once you have them, becomes your responsibility. Which means from the time you get home until the time you tuck them in read them bedtime stories your attention should be focused on them. that falls to the Woman, even if we work outside the home, some Men hold tightly to their old fashioned values. Shared responsibility is never equitable, as Women and Mothers, we are not allowed the same or similar privilege of coming home and grabbing a drink, and sitting in front of the television. Supper had to be made, homework checked, laundry is done, sick Children at times needed to be cared for. Being tired or feeling the strain of Parenting is never an option, we must work outside and inside the home, and still maintain that feminine allure.

Setting Bedtime Schedules and maintaining it allows you the Parent to unwind, and spend time taking care of you. Children also tend to do better in School or in Social activities when they are allowed regenerative/ restorative sleep

Do's And Dont's, Of Parenting.

While you are influencing little minds and leaving your imprint on their Self-Worth, it's important to try never to use the word "but". Or if only.


a. "You did a wonderful Job Cleaning up your toy's, but you missed one".

b. "You did a Wonderful job if only I could get you to do it every Night".

c. " Why can't you be more like."

On one hand you just elevated your Child in his/her minds to the highest pinnacle of praise, a Child of that age can receive, only to shatter it again, now instead of going to bed with the knowledge that they are a unique part of your life and well loved, as well as being appreciated. You forced them to wonder if they will be replaced in the Family unit. Especially if a Younger sibling is also in residence.

If an older sibling is part of that unit, then it becomes a question of does Mom, or Dad love my sibling more, we as parents unknowingly at times start the thread that becomes in later Years sibling rivalry. A family is a unique blend of Personalities, each one having varied Interest, ability, and skills, not only Socially, but as it pertains to Employment and Employment values.

Personal picture you may not use or distribute
Personal picture you may not use or distribute

Monetary Help

What kind and who should be supported.

Parents are relied on to provide help financially, stating the obvious of course from Birth through to Early Teens. It's not uncommon here in the United States and other Countries to expect a Teenager to start earning and paying into Social Security at an early age. The onus is on the Parent to develop well-adjusted Children, to introduce them to Work at an early age.

How Early is too Early?

I'm so glad someone asked. Okay so no one asked, but I'm assuming someone has that particular question. To which, I'd honestly answer, as soon as they are able to walk, hold a dust rag or a broom. I'm not implying by any means that we should hire out the little munchkins for work at the tender age of two Years, (which is normally when hand eye coordination is developing). No, what I'm implying is this. Children should and can help to keep their own little area tidy.

It's called Chores, there is no way we should expect a Child of such tender Years to be able to maintain his or her area as well as an Adult, however, by teaching them to at least put away toy's prior to bedtime, and giving little praises for the effort. Leads to a developed sense of Self Worth. Do by all means pay them for this achievement.

No way should a Parent indulge a Child with expensive gifts, that won't last longer than a couple of Months, Everyone knows that is the role of Grandparents. Children learn to place value on things because of the Media, be it Television or Radio. Stores cater to our Youngest consumers and appeal to their sense of fitting in. In School or with Peer group. I dodged the proverbial bullet there, I was unable financially to cater to my Children's wants, and by the time I was able to cater, I had matured enough to understand that buying their Love and helping them fall victim to Peer Pressure, was not going to happen.

When my Children were old enough to start Work, I encouraged them to. I drove them to and from, work. I encouraged them to save a portion of their income, and also to spend a portion on whatever they wanted. Needless to say, I don't want to brag, but my Children are the smartest Children in the World. What I found was, if they were the ones earning an income, purchasing that expensive sneakers, Video Games, whatever, didn't seem as important or as necessary. I watched as they spent responsibly, purchasing things they instead needed for the various after School activities they were involved in, or on Birthday, Christmas, or Valentine's Day Gifts for each other. That's not to say as they Matured into Adulthood they didn't spend on a Want now and then. They did, but it had to be something that lasted more than a couple of Months.

I Believe they also come to realize that they could achieve if they worked hard. I would love to say they didn't need my Financial help at some point throughout their growing Years. They did, but what Parent would mind helping, when the help is asked out of Necessity, and only occasionally.

Every Family falls victim to hard times, and help is necessary, but it's important to teach self-reliance. The Difference between want and need.

Even the Best Parent in the World will make mistakes, I've made my share. Learning to identify mistakes and apologizing for them as they occur increases your chance of having a lasting, and loving relationship with your Children, it teaches them how to apologize, and to accept their humanness. As long as we live and even after the Children have moved on to create their own Family Unit, we will learn new ways to disappoint them. It's okay, to err is human.


"The Rise Of Non Traditional Households, according to U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey". Nigel Maynard.

Miriam Websters Online Dictionary,


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    • profile image

      Courtney 2 years ago

      well thought out and articulated. I couldn't have done a better job. Keep up the good work

    • Juliet Stewart profile image

      Juliet Stewart-Austin 2 years ago from San Antonio, TX.

      Thank you Courtney, I will endeavor to strive for well written Articles that touches on serious issues. Your comment is appreciated.

    • profile image

      Manoj 23 months ago

      This arltice keeps it real, no doubt.

    • Juliet Stewart profile image

      Juliet Stewart-Austin 4 months ago from San Antonio, TX.

      Thank you Manoj.

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