Large Family Stuggles — or Benefits?

mfgroupDuring the Easter holiday season, we took off some extra days for spring break and headed to Florida to visit with family. This week, my children have spent time with cousins ages 6 months to 26 years, and for the most part, they’ve had a lot of fun together. Interacting with so many people, though, means there will likely be some problems. Even within the immediate family, personalities are so different that they’re bound to clash sometime; multiply that number by four or five, and there will be more than a few arguments.  Small disputes and bickering are likely to occur, especially when so much time is spent together.

But if you have a large family, you know that’s actually one of the benefits of having so many relatives. Within the safety and comfort of the extended family, my children can learn to relate to all kinds of people, ones they get along with as well as ones that don’t share their same views. They learn how to be kind and include someone in a game even if they don’t want to, and they can come to adults they know well for help if difficult situations arise.

Interestingly, this time there was even peer pressure at work among the teenage/pre-teen cousins. When my daughter Cassie was looking for something to do, she asked her cousin if she had any ideas. “No,” the cousin replied. “I just do what the others want to do so they’ll include me.” Cassie , who at 11 years old falls in between the “older” and “younger” groups of cousins, was very surprised, but it was a good lesson. Even among family, someone can feel pressured to fit in.

So while this week has been a nice break, it’s been a time of learning as well. Time for my kids to relate to others  a little better, and a time for me to sharpen my parenting skills. And as the extended family continues to grow and change, I know we’ll grow and change as well.

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