Many Filipino homes are big – not necessarily in size and space, but in the number of people living together. The setup of a nuclear family living in the home of either the mother or the father’s parents or in-laws is quite common in this country, mostly because of family ties. However, other factors such as budget and convenience can also come into play with this decision.
In a home with adults of differing practices, beliefs, and opinions, parenting and co-parenting may be a joyful learning experience. Imagine the wealth of parenting wisdom from the experienced ones and the fresh takes of the first-timers! However, due to generation and age gaps, rifts and conflicts in raising kids may also be inevitable. How does raising a child really work in an extended family setup? Here are some helpful tips:
As parents, it is crucial that you spell out your expectations from the people living in the same space as you and your kids. Who does what? Who buys what? What things are allowed and not allowed? Do not involve the people around you in a guessing game that would only lead to pointing fingers. Make sure that expectations are set, and boundaries are clear through proper communication. Don’t hold grudges against other people especially if communication is not done in the first place.
While talking to let the people around you know what you expect from them, listening to their take on things is not a bad idea, either. This way, you may be able to come up with better, easier, and more creative solutions to your problems. They might have already encountered what you’re going through, so you don’t need to spend more time and energy in thinking of a way out. It also pays to ask questions and ask for help whenever you’re in doubt, but be very clear that you’re not necessarily obliged to blindly follow what they say and as parents, the decision is still ultimately yours.
Privacy and consent are two of the most difficult topics that parents need clear-cut stands on. Is everyone allowed to take photos and videos of your child on any activity and upload them right away on social media? Is everyone allowed to hug and kiss your children at any given time? Does everyone have the right to introduce your kid when they have visitors at home and ask him to sing/dance/perform in front of them? Is anyone at home allowed to bring your kids outside the house? Not talking about these things might lead to unnecessary rifts and conflicts, so it’s better to discuss and make sure things are clear.
Communicating is almost always only the first part of the process. The next parts are more difficult to accomplish, only because everyone is a work in progress. Parents, grandparents, and in-laws must model the behavior they wish their young ones to learn. Cleanliness, for example, is an issue in many shared homes. Verbally teaching your child about cleanliness and hygiene is step one and teaching it by example is another. If the child sees unsanitary practices at home, then confusion will definitely arise. Make sure all of you adults are one in modeling behaviors and all of you understand the consequences of not being one in showing your kids these values and behaviors.
Avoid creating a series of conversations on “I am better than you are” or “Our generation did this better than you do” lines. Enlighten each other on how practices from before could benefit now, and how current practices could enhance things done before. You are not competing for the child’s love and attention; you are raising him or her, so make sure that collaboration is evident through constant healthy discussions.
Involve everyone not just in the division of labor and discussion of sensitive topics. It is very important that kids see that everyone celebrates each other’s milestones and triumphs. This gives them a sense of family and belongingness, and a deeper sense of gratitude. It’s fun to see an entire household give importance to wins big and small. In time, children will demonstrate how all these efforts from adults are very much appreciated.