The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Thanksgiving – We’re Family

    Thanksgiving traditionally is the time for the whole  familyto get together.  Some members enjoy this, others do not.  In the movie,  “Home  for  the  Holidays”, one  family  member  says  to another: ” We don’t have to like each other.  We’re family. ” 

  In  Oscar Lewis’ book, “The Children of Sanchez”, people  inthe same family tell what they experienced growing up.  Identical events are recounted by different persons.  The stories told from the  distinct  viewpoints are so disparate that  each  individual seems to have been raised apart from the others.  

Each  member of a family experiences the family  environment differently.   Ask your siblings sometime how they feel about  an event  that stands out in your mind as being very important  when you were growing up.  The range of perceptions of this event will surprise  you.   Siblings also remember parents  differently  and have very different feelings about them. 

   Families  which  keep  records  of  their  history  need  to remember that all the events recorded are not necessarily “true.”  They  have all been filtered through the eyes and memory  of  the beholder and the recorder.

    All  influences shared by children in the same family,  such as  parents’  emotional  warmth or  disciplinary  practices,  get filtered  through  each child’s unique temperament and  stage  of development.   Siblings  living in  stressed  households  respond  differently  to  negative experiences.  One child may  have  beenborn when there was family harmony while another was born  during strife  and never experienced harmony.   Family  transitions  and major  events  like  illness, job loss and  divorce  also  affect siblings differently. 

     Parents  respond differently to their children according  to what  phase of growth they are in.  Some parents love babies  but cannot  handle a three year old.  Siblings are very sensitive  to their place in the family and are aware of how each one is  beingtreated.   An out-of-control three year old  is resentful of  the cooing baby brother who seems more loved.  

Peers are another influence on the personalities of childrenin the same family.  Siblings are usually in different grades  at school  and develop different friendships.   These  relationships sometimes set them apart from other members of the family.  

    As  a  result, although parents may feel they  are  treating each  child  the same, they produce children who  are  different. 

Parents  cannot  control a child’s perception of  what  is  being experienced.   The  best  parents can do  is  to  appreciate  the differences among their children and try to minimize preferential treatment of one child over another.  

   There  is  no  such thing as a perfect parent  or  for  that matter,  a  perfect child, but if you are  a  reasonable,  loving parent,  your  children  will  grow  up  to  be   themselves–all different,  but  okay.    Their uniqueness  is  something  to  bethankful  for, too.   Accept that as a given and  the  likelihood that  this Thanksgiving reunion will be a loving and relaxed  one is greatly enhanced.

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