Family is a term that is used but not necessarily agreed upon. In this post, we will look at views on family and the stages of family. Understanding the stages of family life will help teachers try to help parents.
Defining Marriage & Family
Family often begins with marriage, and defining marriage has been controversial for years now. Traditional marriage in the West generally involves people of the opposite sex who have some sort of a public ceremony. A family that is formed through marriage is called a family of procreation. Marriage can also be more complex. Some support having multiple partners, which is called polygamy or polyandry (multiple wives or husbands).
Despite being around since the beginning of time, people do not agree on what family is. One definition sees family as the blood relations a person has. However, many people do not grow up with blood relatives and thus may see adoptive parents or friends as family. Sociologists try to deal with this by speaking about a family of orientation which is the family in which one is born or raised.
Stages of a Family
There are seven common stages that a family goes through. Stage 1 is the marriage family and is usually childless. The couple is essentially newlyweds and has not had any children yet. Stage 2 is the procreation stage and involves having newborns to toddlers. This stage is a huge transition as the responsibility of parenthood has descended on a young couple.
Stage 3 is the preschooler family and goes from toddlers until 6 years of age. Generally, kids are not yet in school and spend most of their time at home or daycare. Stage 4 is the school-age family and goes from age 6-13. At this stage, children are in school, are more independent, and the parents can focus more on their jobs and career.
Stage 5 is the teenage family and goes from age 13-20. The children are adults who lack experience and need to be guided by their parents. As they push the limits, parents can begin to worry greatly about the young adults in their house. Stage 6 is the launching family and involves young adults leaving home. This can be extremely emotional as children leave home and parents have to deal with the separation from adult children. Lastly, stage 7 is the empty nest family, which is a family in which the children have grown up and moved away. Now that their children are adults, parents are left with a huge transition as they try to find other ways to invest their time.
Families and Education
The stages are useful but not always accurate. It is common to have children in various age categories simultaneously. For example, have a toddler and a teenager in the same house. Is such a family a preschooler or teenager family? It may not be clear, but perhaps the stage is tied to the individual child instead of the entire family.
For teachers, the stages of the family often involve them dealing with families from at least the stages 2-6. Parents will be in different stages with different children, which may impact whatever children the teacher is dealing with. For example, suppose a 10 year has an older sibling who is leaving for college. In that case, this could cause behavioral problems as the students struggle to accept this separation. In addition, if a 7-year-old now has a baby brother, this could also lead to problems as they adjust to less attention from their parents. These two examples don’t even consider the fracturing of a family through a divorce or the commonly found experience of single parents.
Teachers and families have to work together to help children. This is an idea that seems to have been forgotten over the years. With the challenges of moving through each stage of family life, teachers need to be aware and understand as they try to support the home.