In many parts of the world, a ‘family’ is often a lot ‘larger’ than just the parents, brothers and sisters. In fact, there could be as many as four (or even five) different generations living together, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. This is called ‘extended-family living’, and, as with anything, it has its advantages and disadvantages. In fact, i know about both first hand…
You see, it’s not just me, the two girls and their dad that get up to mischief in our house. Our family’s actually a little bit bigger than that. Our niece and nephew live with us. Both of them are adults – Miss P is 24 and her brother J is 22. Miss P’s been living with us on and off for 7 years, over 3 different continents, actually, and has become an integral part of our family. J has only recently joined us here in Spain, but has settled in nicely, and has definitely become one of the girls’ favorite people.
My husband, the girls’ dad, travels regularly for work, so, having another two adults in the house is wonderful! Miss P helps with so many things (cooking, laundry, etc), and she’s fantastic with the littlest member of the family! She doesn’t mind changing diapers, or helping out with bath-time, and she’s a pro at clipping little finger nails! She’s super ‘tight’ with Kayla 🙂 , in fact, they now actually share clothes! That’s not to say there’s never any trouble… when those two fight, even the neighbor’s cat hides under the table! I ‘spose it comes with the territory though… Kayla was 5 when she first moved in with us, so the two of them are as close as sisters, and we all know how sisters fight!
It’s lovely having someone to help with the kids, or to take a turn with the laundry, but the nicest part of having them around has to be having someone to talk to. Being a stay at home mom is not the most ‘conversation intensive’ job in the world 😉 , so having two more adults to chat to really does liven things up a bit. The girls have lots of love and attention, and there’s always never a dull moment!
Having extra family around can present its share of problems too, and we’ve definitely faced a couple of issues. Privacy is limited, and there are times where it feels like we just need our own space. I’m sure they’d like a little more freedom too. Sometimes the lines get a little blurred… Sometimes, even the smallest things turn into a power struggle. Which shoes the Little Miss should wear, or what she should have for breakfast… I know there have been times i’ve felt like screaming,
“Hey, Sister, Back Off! I know you’re family, but I’m still the Mom here!”
I think it’s something that all extended families deal with at some stage… finding a balance is not easy. You need to know how much help to accept, how much help to expect, and learn when, and HOW, to express your feelings. If you go about it in the wrong way, you just end up with a very unpleasant situation for everyone involved. Here are some things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a conflict situation with your extended family…
- Talk honestly – But gently. Lay out some ‘family rules and expectations’, and talk openly about how everyone feels about them. Be open to tweaking things where necessary.
- Find some common ground – Generally, everybody wants whats best for the kids. Try and focus on that fact. Yes, there are going to be differences in disciplining styles, or in attitudes towards the amount of television the kids should be watching… is it really worth a big fight?
- Look for the funny side – Let’s be honest, there are going to to be tough times! Sometimes you just need to laugh… You were expecting your Aunt to give the kids dinner, she thought you already did, so they ended up having only dessert? Not great… Agreed…but if it’s only happening once in a blue moon, you have to agree, it’s pretty funny 🙂 .
- Sometime it’s best to shut your mouth and take the high road – I know it’s not easy, but you know what, i’m sure there are times they do it too…
- Always keep the kids out of it – It doesn’t matter if the argument’s about the kids (it’s probably going to be), DON’T get them involved. Don’t talk about it where the kids can hear, don’t bad mouth each other to the kids, and don’t try and use the kids against each other. It’s not fair on the children. Just leave them out of it!
- You’re stuck together, so get over it! – for better or worse, this is the situation, and 9 times out of ten, i’m willing to bet, the setup works. It really is better to forgive and move on.
I’m the first one to admit that things can get tough. The relationship between parents is tricky enough as it is. When you add in additional adults, things are bound to get that much more complicated. I know that, for our family, the pro’s outweigh the cons, and that, even though some days are a struggle, our girls are benefiting from having all the extra love and support.
Do you or someone you know have a similar setup? How do you deal with the conflict that arises?
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