Family, extended family great support

Five years ago, Northern Alberta was booming with the oil and gas industry and people across the country were flocking north to grab their piece of the pie.

Five years ago, Northern Alberta was booming with the oil and gas industry and people across the country were flocking north to grab their piece of the pie.

Younger generations may forget that many of their parents followed the same boom 30 years ago that led them to Alberta. Many of those left behind their families — parents and siblings — for opportunity, not only for themselves, but for their future children.

My mother left her large Maritime family behind in New Brunswick to follow my father, who was raised in Toronto, to their new life in Fort McMurray and, later, Edmonton. They were living in an apartment, “with only a mattress and a radio,” says Nick Johanson, construction manager for Suncor. In an effort to locate my mother, Linda, my grandmother called as many radio stations in the area as she could, hoping her daughter would hear her message to get in touch.

Extended family can be a blessing, or a bomb waiting to go off. Some members may have opposing views on raising children or running a home; they may also have innovative ideas or suggestions that can improve the way a family functions. That is, if the extended family is close enough to understand the family dynamic.

I imagine growing up with cousins would be fun, different versions of my own parents, and we would all be from the same clan or secret club. It seems to provide a sense of identity; we are all from the same root source. What would it have been like to have old school grandparents, or the cool auntie who all the kids love to be around.

As someone who has grown up with cousins being more of a myth than a fact, shadows that take on a face or perhaps a voice once in a while, I can say with confidence that it is best to maintain contact however you can, throughout your life and your children’s life.

Every family is different and in some this relationship with the extended family may not be possible. It is important than to maintain a strong family bond with the immediate members, for everyone’s best interests.

My immediate family and I are very close and maintain contact daily, even though there are 400 km separating us. However, my mother usually speaks to only one of her nine siblings once a month. Our families — including our extended families — are one the greatest supports we can have and we should utilize it to the best of our abilities.

Children need to feel loved and connected with all members of their families. The closer a family is, the more links in the family safety net are created. These links provide a child with feelings of love and support, which will help them stay in a positive life path. Grandparents can be positive role models, as well as aunts, uncles and older cousins. Chances are that each adult has a different career and life experience to offer the children in their family.

A great way to teach young children how to use the Internet in a positive way could be to show them how to email or chat via Facebook or MSN Messenger with their cousins, aunts and uncles. Even some savvy grandparents are tackling the Internet. These are great ways to exchange photographs, stories and events that are taking place in one another’s lives. Also, don’t forget that the phone is still one of the best ways to stay in touch.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Jesseca Johanson with Family Services of Central Alberta. Johanson can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.

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