March 21, 2015

The Culture of Family

What is your family culture?

It can be hard to ‘see’ the culture within your own family. Why? Because it’s normal. It’s what you grew up with. You are imbibed with it.

Perhaps you might have got an inkling as to your family’s culture when you stayed the weekend with a friend from school. Or better still, when you met your partner’s family for the first time.  Perhaps you may have even been forgiven for thinking that the other family was just that little bit … weird?

Why?

Isn’t this because their value systems differ from yours? For example, one family may value punctuality and see it as a manifestation of integrity and reliability. Another family may value spontaneity and see it as being responsive to those in need in a timely manner. Two such values can be quite conflicting.

Another family might value honesty (though we are never really completely honest) but another family might value protecting each other from emotional upheaval as more important.

We value competition in our family and it permeates our reactions to everything that happens. So much so, that I find it hard to imagine a family culture that doesn’t have competition at its core.

Of course all this can become a bit challenging when Person A marries Person B. For the marriage to work successfully, it seems to me that A and B have to make compromises to their value systems. You could call them adjustments. Perhaps this is one reason why the first year of marriage can be so HARD. But if A and B work at it, they end up developing a new value system which is a blend of A and B’s original values. Sometimes the compromises that A and/or B are being asked to make prove too great … and consequently they may decide to separate. That’s fair enough when you think about it, but painful none the less.

The blend of a couple’s two value systems ostensibly turns into a family culture as children appear. All of us work really hard on this, embracing our sense of ‘rightness’ and wanting to raise children with the strength of character we deem important. It’s critical to parenting.

And so the world goes around and generations repeat.

Perhaps if we understood how our value systems differ from our neighbours, might we be just that little bit more tolerant? Love to know what you think.

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