Parenting in diverse family situations by Rayhab Motsoane
Family is a unit of society where infants get into contact with their first holistic development, i.e. physical, social, spiritual, cognitive and emotional development. Throughout human development, family is the main basis of support and care. Above all it gives a sense of identity and belonging. When one talks of a “family” what comes to mind is a nuclear family, with parents and children. Nowadays, this image of a family has changed in terms of structure and areas of responsibilities. The focus in this article will be on diverse and unusual family structures as outlined in the Manual on Family Preservation 2010 (Revised) DSD as follows:
1. Single Parent Family: Where there is one parent and a child(ren) resulting from death, divorce, children born out of wedlock.
2. Extended Family: Where there are biological parents with grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews supporting and caring for each other.
3. Child / youth headed family
4. Same sex family
5. Grandparents headed family
6. Kinship foster / adoptive family, i.e. Child placed through statutory processes in the care of a related family member
7. Foster / adoptive family, i.e. Child placed through statutory processes in the care of an unrelated family member
8. Combined / reconstituted family where biological parents and/or step parents and biological children live together
9. Separated families where one member lives apart due to work circumstances.
It is thus important for communities to understand the term “family” in order to assist in promotion and preservation of families as guided by the principle “Ubuntu”
Family functions to all types of families include offering members stability and a secure environment from infancy to adulthood. This includes ensuring harmony and good relationships. It promotes good health and provides nutrition, education, protection, care and support and an environment for optimum development and instilling societal norms and values. Family members must have clear and specific roles to avoid role conflicts. another function is being an economic base and promoting responsible and effective management of finance and other issues. It also engages in recognition and transference of family culture and traditions.
The well being of members in these unusual families is not guaranteed due to the realities faced. The complex family life caused by globalisation, urbanisation, migration, the population explosion and fast paced lifestyles from social and economic demands end up with different forms of stress. More and more people live in poverty due to unemployment. Meager social grants from government cannot meet the ever rising costs of daily living. The HIV / AIDS pandemic in South Africa has had an enormous impact on family dynamics. Child headed families resulting from the death of parents have robbed youngsters of their childhood. Social ills in societies like crime, violence, substance abuse, abuse or abandonment of children and unemployment have been on the rise over the years, leaving families vulnerable. Resources to protect families are inadequate to handle complex problems. Structural factors like divorce, marriage, remarriage, morbidity and death, a workplace far from the family and culture as an integral part of family life challenge family stability. Other challenges are disabilities of family members, acquired either through birth or illness or injury. Myths associated with disabilities contribute to stigmas and discrimination by family members and society at large.
RESOURCES FOR ASSISTANCE
The Government has responded to the various issues through laws and legislation to protect, support and care for vulnerable families. Some of these are:
Child Care Act No. 74 of 1983 (provides for the care and protection of children in need of care)
Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 (Care and protection and give effect to certain rights of children as contained in the Constitution).
Social Assistance Act No. 59 of 1992
Maintenance Act No. 99 of 1998
Mental Health Act No. 18 of 1973
Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998
Aged Persons Act No. 81 of 1967
There are Government Organisations, Non Governmental and Community Organisations and churches too have family support structures, e.g. the SACBC Family Desk. where assistance, referrals and information about parenting resources can be obtained.
The community should accept and embrace diversity in all forms, promoting and encouraging the Principle of “Ubuntu”. Christian groups likewise should promote Gospel values as expressed by Paul in Ephesians 6.
Having stable families will culminate in stable communities.