Monday, June 18, 2007

Family Awareness Day

Today is Family Awareness Day... and to me, its a time to think about what exactly is a family?
I came across this article. It touches upon the people who an individual person considers to be family members... including non-blood-relatives. The article suggests doing an excercise where you first draw a small circle and write the names of the people you consider to be your closest family members. Around that, draw a larger circle and write the names of people you maybe don't live with or don't see as much, but still look to for love and support. Keep drawing larger and larger circles until you have included everyone in your life. Include friends, neighbors, extended family members, etc.
This can also be a wonderful exercise to do with children. You can do this exercise with your own kids, children in foster care, a child you mentor, or other kids in your family. As you do it, let the children talk to you about what each person means to them and what each person gives them. Perhaps Aunt Beth is always willing to talk, Uncle Charlie is fun to play with and makes great jokes, cousin Sarah gives big-sisterly advice. Let the children include anyone they want to include. You may be surprised to find that they feel very close to a babysitter, a neighbor, or a friend and consider that person one of their closest family members!
Children need families because having a family gives them a feeling of belonging, and a feeling of not being all alone in the world. The more people who a child feels close to, the better! Kids who feel like they have warm extended families will be less likely to feel the need to look in other places... like gangs, drugs, etc... for that feeling of belonging.
And for kids whose families are breaking down, extended family members can be even more important. Think about a child whose parents are going through a crisis, like a divorce. Mom and Dad may be the best, most loving parents in the universe, but in their own time of crisis they may be focusing more on survival and making a long-term plan, and they may be unable to spend as much time as they'd like to focusing on their children's innermost needs. In this case, it is wonderful for kids to be able to turn to others, outside their immediate household family, for love, support, and guidance.
As adults, we can help the children in our lives by making ourselves available to them. If you know that one of your own child's friends is having a rough time at home, make a special effort to welcome that child into your home and include that child in your own family's activities. If you know that your neighbor has been going through depression and hasn't been able to focus much on her children, offer to babysit for a while, or let her kids know they can always come to you if they need help with something.
And, if you are a parent, reach out to family members and others when you need a hand with your kids. Help your kids feel like they have a large, extended family, as well!
Because, like the title of this blog says, they're all our children.

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