Family's role in your child's life

by Jacqueline Harding. Help your child to forge strong family connections – even when your relatives live far away.

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Feeling secure, loved and that we are not alone in this world is something we all crave, whatever our age. Children especially need to feel that they are connected to others and they are not alone. They love hearing about their place in the family.

Grandparents and other relatives play a special role in a child’s life. But how can you develop your child’s sense of belonging if many members of their extended family live far away and the family unit is somewhat fragmented?

How CBeebies can help

CBeebies shows can be a great way for children to learn more about families and the way people are related to others in a family.

Try watching Grandpa In My Pocket together as it’s perfect for talking about family relationships – especially the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. The show demonstrates how children often feel very connected to the older generation.

Then, there’s Timmy Time, The Large Family and Charlie And Lola – all of which explore family dynamics in a way that children really understand.

Tweenies is another programme which shows how people relate to each other and how to resolve those tricky moments when disagreements occur.

My Story Online is designed to help you and your child tell the story of your family.

Making a family picture can help talk about family relationships and reinforce your family connections. Use My Family to draw the members of your family. We haven’t used a traditional family tree structure; our templates are left open allowing you to add anyone who’s an important part of your family and your child’s life.

You could use the sticker maker to upload photos of your family and add them to the My Family pages.

Use Where I Live to create pages about where different members of your family live. Draw pictures of granny’s house in the country, big brother’s flat at college, uncle’s house overseas. Draw or add stickers of things that remind you of going to visit them. Add some stickers to show how you’d get there- a bus, a plane or a train?

Why not make some My Story pages around particular family stories? A special My Day page about Granny and Grandad’s wedding using old photos as inspiration? Or a page about your favourite toys when you were a child? Children love to hear family stories, and making pages together is a great way to make them feel connected to the important people in their life.

How to make a magic moment

Children are fascinated by the whole concept of being part of a family and having extended family members - it means so much to them.

They will often ask you to tell and retell stories of family events. It seems to build up a mental picture of where and who they are in the world.

The magic comes when your child realises that they are connected to others and are not alone.

Even if relatives live far away, there are great ways to keep in touch. With a little adult help, children can email, Skype, phone, text or use plain old-fashioned letters to talk and stay in communication with relatives. Sending photos, pictures or little stories they have written can delight relatives living at a distance.

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Top tips

  • Why not keep a special family photo album of relatives near and far? This can help children develop a strong sense of belonging.Simply, draw a picture of a tree and stick photos of their relatives to the branches. If your child wants to they could draw their own pictures of some of their relatives to put on the family tree.  Consider putting on some family events, where your child can build relationships with the wider family, and interact with young and old. Click through to the CBeebies website and go to the Grandpa In My Pocket pages. Have fun playing the ‘Catch Me If You Can’ game together.

Expert opinion

If a child just knows a little of who they are and their place in the family, it helps them feel more secure.

Jacqueline Harding, Child development expert

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