Not that long ago my husband and I were watching a movie about a family consisting of a mom, a dad, and one daughter. No siblings, no grandparents, no extended family whatsoever, just the three of them. And it occurred to me that my son would be in roughly the same situation one day. And it freaked me out. The last thing you want to think about is your child growing up alone.
At this point most parents would just start reproducing like rabbits, but it isn’t as easy as all that. Siblings, while related, aren’t always the best of friends. More often than not, kids strike up unique, long-lasting relationships with extended family members including cousins, uncles and aunts. But, in a world where reproduction rates are dwindling and the distance between family members is increasing, these relationships are harder to come by. Here are some things I’ve been doing to create an extended family of sorts for my son.
Build on existing friendships. Yes, it is hard sometimes to maintain old friendships when you start having kids. Fortunately for us, many of our friends who don’t have kids yet are very happy to be unofficial aunts and uncles. Have friends with kids? Extra bonus! Even if they live a distance you can still see each other on special occasions and make the most of it, like you would when any family member came into town.
Join a religious community. The good ones, at least, are supposed to function like extended families. Not only will your child find other kids in his age bracket to play with, they’ll also share the same faith and religious upbringing, something that’s not likely to happen if you also enroll your child into public school.
Invite more than just the family regulars to your next celebration. This is especially important if you’re either the oldest or youngest in your age bracket to have children. If you’re the first one with kids, chances are your child won’t have many people to play with at an extended family function where everyone is trying to catch up with the family they hardly ever see. If you’re the last one with kids, chances are your cousins’ kids are too old to even notice that your little one is around. Inviting friends, especially ones with kids within a playable age bracket, is a great way to treat them like part of your family and give your child something (or someone) to look forward to.
Blend your social groups. Worried about introducing your new friends from synagogue or church to your old college drinking buddies? Don’t be. Kids are the best ice breaker ever.
Open yourself up to new possibilities. This can be the toughest step of all, but if you want to create an extended family for your child, you have to pave the way when it comes to welcoming others into your home and your life. Maybe you never thought you’d join a religious group. Perhaps you were content with only seeing your distant relatives 2 or 3 times a year. But, as with all things parenting, the decision to create an extended family isn’t about you. It’s about the legacy you’re giving to your child. Not only do you want them to have loved ones looking out for them well into old age, you want to teach them by example how to love in return.
Image via Pinterest.