In this article, Christian (2006) discusses the six characteristics of family systems relevant to early childhood practice. The author believes that teachers have a role in discovering and improving family systems to maximize children’s abilities. Therefore, early childhood teachers should consider these characteristics to help decide the best approach for students.
The first characteristic is boundaries. There are two kinds of boundaries, namely disengaged and enmeshed. The first allows children to decide on their own and accept new friends, ideas, etc. but tend to be unattached while the other s from outside of the family. The second is more strict and attached; it supports and guides an individual in making decisions, but usually expects avid conformity with family rules. Considering the strengths and weaknesses of both kinds, the teacher should respect and support family boundaries in order to respond accordingly to needs.
The second characteristic is roles. Family roles have a significant effect on students’ behavior. For instance, the eldest child tends to be more mature than others and play as the peacemaker, helper, etc. Teachers should recognize these roles and provide role playing situations where students can get to play other roles. Also, teachers should make families recognize their students’ strengths through writing simple notes.
The third is rules. Teachers should know family rules of students in order to avoid confusing them with school rules. For instance, explain why a certain rule works in school but not at home, and vice versa. Teachers should have a positive outlook in striking a balance between both. Also, rules should be stated clearly because unspoken rules could lead to failure to obey them.
The fourth characteristic is hierarchy. Families observe a certain hierarchy in the house. This points to the power to decide within a family. Teachers should be sensitive regarding this and observe the effect of family systems of each individual. For example, there are times when a child exercises power over others due to hierarchy experienced at home. Importantly, teachers should vary activities to make students experience a different hierarchy concept.
Another characteristic is climate. This is the emotional and physical environment the child has. The role of the teacher is to ensure that the child has a positive climate at home. To do this, they could organize a talk with parents to find out and suggest a better climate parents can offer. Also, the climate in school should allow venue for “positive feedback and healthy sensory experiences.”
The last one is equilibrium. This refers to the sense of balance within the family. Equilibrium should manifest in all aspects, such as health, emotions, activities, finance, etc. It can only be achieved by undergoing changes from time to time. For example, if a family experiences difficulty because of a daughter’s illness, parents cannot be focused only on the ill member. They should devote equal time for their other children who equally need care and attention. As professionals, teachers can guide parents to assess equilibrium in their family.
The suggestions the author makes in this article are very significant. Considering the characteristics mentioned might help each family become more well-knit, thus maximizing intellectual and emotional development of the students. To effect this, teachers should have willingness, sincerity, and respect for each student and the family system where they belong.
Christian, Linda Garris. (2006). Applying family systems theory to early childhood practice. Retrieved 5 November 2008, from http://journal.naeyc.org/btj/200601/ChristianBTJ.asp