The importance of family support cannot be underestimated. Families provide the foundations for a harmonious society because they teach us to communicate, care for others, build relationships and provide support, comfort and unwavering love.
Today is the United Nations International Day of Families and the beginning of National Families Week in Australia. An initiative of Families Australia, National Families Week is a time to celebrate and reflect on the strengths and significance of families, contact extended family and friends, and share in the enjoyment of family activities within the wider community. It is a time to celebrate the meaning of family and to make the most of family life – no matter what form your family takes.
Here we look at the importance of family support and the seven ways it shapes your child’s life.
- Early years development
The most important influence on a child’s emotional and physical development is the family. As parents, we influence a child’s perception of themselves, others and their environment. And it’s a two-way street – children also influence our views. Within the family, a child has their first experiences of learning and how to get along with others. It is our responsibility to ensure our children’s needs are met – from the basics such as food and shelter, to the less tangible such as unconditional love, emotional support, protection from danger and guidance.
- Behaviour modelling
Although we may not always think so, our children do watch and listen, observing our behaviours and how we deal with situations, on a continual basis. Within the family, children learn how to manage situations (both positive and negative), and develop a sense of how to behave.
Psychologist Albert Bandura conducted research (Bobo Doll Experiment) that showed children aged three to six treated a doll in the same way that they observed adults doing so. It’s important that we keep this in mind in managing how we deal with others and life in general. It’s not enough to tell a child how to behave – they must see us acting it out in our daily interactions. If our child observes us dealing with conflict in a calm and respectful way, they are likely to mirror those behaviours when they encounter conflict with their peers. Similarly, if they witness us interacting with others in an empathetic and caring way, they are more likely to be empathetic and caring in their dealings with others.
- Mental and physical health
Solid family bonds are crucial to making a child feel safe and secure as they discover who they are and how they should behave, giving them confidence to learn and step out of their comfort zones. Supportive familial relationships have a positive impact on all members’ mental and physical health, with the impact extending beyond the family to external relationships. Research shows that a loving family environment can help children manage external stressors and better cope with life’s ups and downs.
- Moral code
Children develop their moral code within the family, which provides the scaffold of socially acceptable behaviours and values, through role modelling and teaching. We as parents, teach our children right from wrong and how to be the best humans they can be.
- Building relationships
Families teach us how to behave with each other and those external to the family. Children of all ages are constantly learning relationships skills within the family. How parents treat one another and others impacts how our children treat us and others, including their siblings, teachers and classmates. If we model active listening, empathy, nurturing and care, children are more likely to adopt these behaviours and develop positive relationships with others. Families are crucial to learning how to interact with others and manage their feelings.
- Responsibility and accountability
As members of a family unit we have responsibilities to, and accountability for, each other. It is where we learn that our decisions and actions can impact not just those in our own family, but others too. As the leaders of the family unit, parents take on the role of teaching and guiding our children of all ages from toddlers to teens, to learn about the consequences of their actions and the impact they have on others. It helps children to assess risk more effectively.
- Changing family dynamics
As children mature, the parental relationship changes – this can sometimes be difficult to accept and manage. The transition through various developmental stages can be demanding with each stage presenting its own unique set of challenges. The transition to adolescence is perhaps the most testing for parents as children develop a stronger sense of self, assert their individuality, seek to make their own decisions, while relying on us less. It can feel like our role as parent is diminishing and that the family unit is becoming less tight-knit, but this is not necessarily the case.
The key is in remembering that our role is no less important, however our relationship with our child will and must change. We move from being an authority figure to being a co-collaborator. Trust that you have provided solid foundations for your child to make sensible decisions, and if they don’t, our job is to support, rather than to judge.
Yes, relationships and families will change over time, however your child will benefit from the continuity of support your family provides through a safe and secure emotional base. Care, assurance and unconditional love of the family form an important home base for your child, no matter their age.
Oakleigh Grammar offers excellence in coeducational learning from ELC through to Year 12. We pride ourselves on our close-knit family environment and we are dedicated to building resilient lifelong learners and responsible global citizens by empowering young minds and putting students at the centre of all we do. We ensure each child is nurtured and cared for at a personal level, by exceptional educators who are dedicated to their students and their profession. Founded in Christian values, Oakleigh Grammar boasts a multicultural environment where a zest for life is encouraged, good citizenship is celebrated and academic scholarship is our mainstay. To learn more about Melbourne’s best value private school download our prospectus