How to Explain the Meaning of Family to Children

By Tiffany Raiford
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You might think you know the meaning of family only until your little one asks you about it. The family dynamic has changed so drastically over the past few decades that the concept of family is open to greater interpretation. The words you use to describe what family means can either enlighten your child or prejudice him against differences forever.

Step 1

Explain to your child that there is no such thing as a normal family. Provide your child with examples of different types of family. For example, some children have mommies and daddies, some children have stepparents and some children have two mommies or two daddies or any mixture of the above. Other children don’t have a mommy or a daddy but they have extended family who love and take care of them. Additionally, some people consider their friends their family because they are there for them at all times.

Step 2

Explain the different definitions of family for your child, advises the Boys and Girls Club of America. Some people consider their family to be the people to whom they are most directly related to by blood, for example, their moms, dads and siblings. Others also include their extended family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Explain how adopted children and adoptive parents are considered family. Family, essentially, include people who love one another, support one another, perhaps live together and protect one another.

Step 3

Read books that portray different types of families. According to Kids Health, parents are encouraged to use books to help young children prepare for the birth of a baby in the family. You can use the same technique to help your child better understand the diversity of families. Hit the library and spend some time reading about adoption, divorce, remarriage, step families, extended families and families with same-sex parents.

Step 4

Involve others in the explanation of family. For example, the next time your immediate family is together or the next time you have friends or extended family over, go around the room and ask everyone to explain his or her personal definition. Chances are they will explain to your child that a family includes the people who provide love and support. Since the meaning of family is broad, your child may develop a better understanding of the concept by hearing what others have to say about it.