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Family Life

Your child's notion—as well as your own ideas—of the family and how it should work have largely been shaped by personal experiences. If you grew up as an only child, for example, and you have four youngsters of your own who compete for attention, privacy, or possessions, you might feel that there's something wrong with the way your family is functioning and might tend to be­come overcontrolling. Or if you were one of two girls who grew up in a house­hold where everyone was relatively cooperative, and you have three sons who are rambunctious, you may be concerned about relationships within the fam­ily because things are not in sync with your early experiences.

Other factors can help shape your vision of the family and how it actually works. Religious and moral beliefs, for example, help form your ideas of the way things "should" be. Your economic situation and living conditions will in­fluence the functioning of your family, perhaps in ways that run counter to your preconceptions.

Today's geographic mobility can put distance between extended families, with hundreds or thousands of miles separating grandparents and their grandchildren; if you grew up with your grandparents nearby, the new realities may be uncomfortable for you.

The prevailing cultural values as depicted and transmitted by the media may not coincide with your notion of family. Television, motion pictures, and other media bombard us each day with fantasy images of the family. And if your fam­ily doesn't measure up to these depictions—if your family isn't always as happy as those families on the TV commercials, or doesn't settle arguments within a thirty-minute time slot—you might feel you aren't doing as good a job as you should. Some of the media more accurately portray the evolving roles that males and females can play today, with both fathers and mothers having more options in sharing the breadwinning and child-raising responsibilities.

To repeat, there are many variations of "normal," some of which may not conform to your expectations. You might feel something is awry with your own family when nothing is wrong at all. You may just have to rethink your ex­pectations of what a family should be.


Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.