Family for Me: The Many Different Family Dynamics

A Muslim family stands together at the sea, the father holding a smiling toddler and the mother, wearing Hijab, smiles at them.

What does a family look like? We often think of nuclear families with two parents living with their young children. However, there is a larger variety of family dynamics in society today. Some children live in single parent homes, while others live in multi-generational households with extended families. Some children may also live in foster homes or be adopted.

Just as we are encouraged to embrace diversity in culture and ethnicity, understanding and teaching our children about the different types of families that people can have is important. Different families can have family members of a variety of ages, relationships to one another, and even cultural backgrounds. 

Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran about the beauty in the diversity He created:

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge

  • The Holy Qur’an 30:22

It is important for parents to educate their children about the different kinds of family backgrounds that can exist. This ensures that children are more tolerant and understanding of other families around them, and that different kinds of families feel included and accepted. Plus, understanding the different types of family dynamics will teach children to love and appreciate the family that they have even more. 

Noor Kids’ latest book, Family for Me, has two exciting stories that teach children to value different kinds of family dynamics. The first story teaches children that not all families look alike. The second one teaches children the importance of honoring grandparents, and their value in our lives. These stories teach us that the family Allah (SWT) gave us is the perfect family for us, and that even if our grandparents come from a different culture and speak a different language, there is so much we can learn from their experiences!

What are the Different Types of Families?

 
A Muslim mother and father sit together holding their young daughter on a sofa in front of a bookshelf, taking a selfie.

A family where parents originate from two different cultures is one of the many beautiful and unique kinds of family dynamics.

Diversity in different types of families is the manifestation of different kinds of familial structures in society. These familial structures vary in the number of people living in one household, the number of parents, the kind of relationship among the family members, and the roles of extended family. 

Family dynamics also refers to cultural diversity within family members. This means that both parents of a family aren’t always necessarily from the same culture! While each person in any relationship has their own unique characteristics, habits, and nature, belonging to different cultures is often a temptation for Shaytan to come between a husband and wife. 

Our article on “How to Shaytan-Proof Your Islamic Marriage” has tips on guarding against the influence of Shaytan! Muslim spouses can guard their prophetic bond by renewing intentions, apologizing first, and recognizing the bad influence of Shaytan. 

According to a recent study from the American Muslim Poll, interracial marriages in the Muslim community have been steadily on the rise during the past ten years. Nearly one in five Muslims report being married to someone with a racial background that differs from their own. You can access more statistics on American Muslim family dynamics on the American Muslim Poll at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. 

Though some cultures don’t approve of marrying outside the culture, Islam embraces diversity in this regard as well. After all, many companions—and even our own Prophet (S)—married outside their culture because they understood that religion and community are more important than cultural traditions or cultural beliefs. 

The Prophet (S) himself reportedly never met his father, who passed away before his birth. He then was raised by his mother, then his grandfather, then his uncle. This demonstrates the wisdom of Allah (SWT) in all that He decides for each child’s upbringing. No one’s upbringing is the only way possible, and the family Allah (SWT) chooses for us is the one He decides as best for us!

The types of families that you can find in the Muslim community (and beyond) include:

  • Two-parent households
  • Single parent households
  • Blended families
  • Multi-generational households

Single Parent, Multi-Generational, and Blended Family Definition

A Muslim family of eight sits together smiling at the camera.

No matter the family dynamics, every family has their own unique qualities that make it special.

The most commonly understood definition of family is that of a nuclear family, where a household consists of two parents and their children. However, many other kinds of families exist that are perfectly normal and accepted in the eyes of Allah (SWT). 

Blended Family Definition 

In a blended family, two families are often joined together to form a new, bigger family. Oftentimes, two single parents with their children join in marriage, creating a family of step parents and step children. 

In the family dynamics of a blended family, there will be at least one child who is not legally or naturally related to one parent. However, this does not mean that there is discrimination or a lack of love between the step parents and step children. Rather, the existence of a blended family is a sign of the love Allah (SWT) puts in our hearts for each other, regardless of whether we are related by birth or not!

Our children should learn to be accepting of blended families and not look down or question the nature of such a family. The joining of two families only means an increase of love, acceptance, and understanding between them, and it provides companionship, support, and solace in situations in which single parent households might have otherwise been alone. 

Multi-Generational Households

When examining family dynamics, roles and the involvement of extended family members should never be overlooked. For many families, their household consists of people from the extended family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes even cousins. 

While many children may complain about lack of privacy or even space, we should teach our children to value the presence of extended family members. Having grandparents, aunts, and uncles closeby is a privilege, when many Muslim immigrant families have their relatives settled in different, distant countries and can visit them only after long periods of time. 

Living with extended families does not necessarily inconvenience the members of that family. Instead, it allows for children to learn to live with and get along with others. Children who grow up close to their grandparents also gain access to generational wisdom that they may not have had access to otherwise. Living with young aunts and uncles can also mean more playmates and love from people other than their parents. 

For parents as well, living in multi-generational households can free up their time and provide help and support they may not have had if they lived in a nuclear setup. It can also allow parents to spend time with their own aging parents and enjoy their company and wisdom as they themselves grow older. 

Growing up with grandparents has also been found to make kids smarter! According to a study on the impact of living in multi-generational households during childhood, children who grew up in multi-generational households displayed higher levels of cognitive functioning. This is likely due to the socially rich home environment, which provides resources and protection for early cognitive development. 

Single Parent Households

In a single parent household, one parent has either passed away and returned to Allah (SWT), or the parents are divorced. In such a family, either the mother or father lives alone with their children. Of the types of families that exist, single parent households are often the most difficult. Our parent’s guide “Single Parenting: Lightening the load with 4 steps” includes steps that single parents can take to make their job easier and lighten their load. 

Though such a household is quite common, the kind of family dynamic present in a single parent household proves to be very stressful for the single parent. Lack of support, feelings of loneliness, the doubling of responsibilities, and having to play the role of both parents present a strain on both parent and child. 

We should teach our children to be extra caring and understanding to children in single parent households and to not ask probing or uncomfortable questions about the absent parent. Family structures do not make or break a person. Rather, they are chosen by the ultimate wisdom of Allah (SWT) as the dynamic for that particular family. 

However, being a single parent does not mean that the parent cannot make anything of themself or be a successful parent. Asmaa Hussein, founder and CEO of Ruqayya’s Bookshelf, became a single mother after the death of her husband. While raising her daughter, Ruqayya, all on her own, she founded Ruqayya’s bookshelf and authored a number of children’s books that Muslim children love to read. You can listen to her interview about this topic on the Muslim Superdad & Wondermom podcast below:

What Makes YOUR Family Dynamics Special?

A Muslim family stands together under a tree, the father holding a son on his shoulders as he points to the sky, and the mother holding a daughter and smiling.

We should all be thankful for the special family that Allah (SWT) has chosen just for us!

Every person’s family is unique. Some children live with both of their parents while others live with only one parent. On the other hand, some family dynamics consist of more people than in a nuclear family,  such as living with step parents and step siblings, or grandparents, aunts, and uncles. 

No matter what one’s family looks like, each family is special and important. Our children should be able to identify, understand, and value the different types of family structures that exist. By doing so, our children can become more tolerant and understanding of family situations around them, and become more sensitive to the different situations people live in. 

Learning about other people’s families also teaches children that Allah (SWT) has made a family that is perfect for every person. Children learn to believe in His ultimate wisdom, reflect on their own family dynamics, and be thankful to Allah (SWT) for the family that they have been blessed with. 

What does your family dynamic look like, and what makes it special? Comment below!

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