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Families - there are many kinds

family; families; children; stepfamily; foster; mother; father; mum; dad; brother; sister; adopted; child; divorce; stepmother; stepfather. ;


What is a family?

A mother, a father and a child?

Well, you do need a mother and father to have the child, but is that the only kind of family?

  • familyWhat about a family which has one parent and a child, or children?
  • What about children who live with their grandparents?
  • What about children who are adopted into a family? They still have a mother and a father, but the family started in a different way.
  • What about children who live sometimes with mum and sometimes with dad?
  • What about children who live with mum and her female partner, or dad and his male partner?
  • What about children who live with aunties, uncles or older brothers and sisters?
  • step family membersWhat about children who live with foster parents?
  • What about stepbrothers and stepsisters and stepparents? Some children have 2 mothers and 2 fathers and 8 grandparents and goodness knows how many cousins!

Every human has needs.

  • Body needs - e.g. food, water, sleep, breathing.
  • Safety - to feel safe
  • Love-to feel love and a sense of belonging with others
  • Esteem - to feel good about themselves and that others value them
  • To set goals - and work towards success

Being part of a caring family helps towards satisfying these needs.

Who is in your family?

How families work

Everyone in the family needs to play her or his part if the family is to work well and meet everyone's needs.

In the 'olden days' (I heard you groan then!) it was usually the father who went out to work and the mother who stayed home to look after the house and the children.

Some mothers did go out to work, of course, and some fathers stayed at home, but it was not the usual way.

In the very 'olden days' men went off hunting or fighting, and it was up to the women and children to manage by themselves until the men came home. Nowadays some men go off to work somewhere else for some weeks, then come back home for a few weeks until it is time to go back to work.

familyNow sometimes an adult, or even a child, needs to play more than one role in the life of the family - maybe go out to work or school and care for the children as well. 

Nowadays there are many homes where both parents work outside the home.

There are many homes where one parent works outside the home.

If everyone does their share and cares for each other, the family home is a happy place where people feel loved and cared for.

Remember that taking care of a home and children is work too.

There are many homes where no adult works outside the home.
There are many reasons for this.

  • Sometimes there is no paid work for them to do.
  • Sometimes adults may not be well enough to work.
  • Sometimes adults may need to stay at home to look after a person in the family who is very sick, or has a disability and needs full-time care.
  • Sometimes one or both adults in a family have retired from work.
  • Sometimes adults may do paid work from home.
  • Sometimes it is a full-time unpaid job to look after the family and the home.

Being a grown up isn't always as easy as you might think, especially if you are also a parent. Being a parent means that you are responsible for providing food, warmth and shelter, love and caring for your family. Providing these things takes time, work and money.

Families can break up



Sometimes mums and dads decide not to live together any more.

Sometimes mums and dads have never lived together.



Sometimes parents divorce and then marry again, so that children will have a step-mother or a step-father, or both.

  • Nowadays there are more children than ever before who are living in step-families.
  • A step-family is made when two adults marry or decide to be life partners, and one or both of them already has children.
  • A stepmother or stepfather is a person who has stepped into the family, to help make a new family.
  • Your stepmother or stepfather never takes the place of your real mother or father, but they can be your friends and give you lots of love and care and support in their role of mum or dad in the family.

Often children live with one parent and still see the other parent, but not always.

Sometimes a family break-up can mean that children may not see other family members like grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, and that can be very sad.

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim
"Whatever happens to your family, you will still be a part of it. Even if you don't see some people very often, even if some parts of your extended family have never met you because they live too far away, you are still part of the family." (Extended family means aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents.)

 If you are worried about things which are happening in your family talk to your mum, or dad, or your trusted adults about your worries.

A simple Family Tree Chart

You can either type directly in the boxes on-line and then print it out, or you can print the chart out first and then write in the boxes by hand.

To fill in the boxes on-line, move your mouse over each box - a description of what to type in the box will appear. Type the name in the box then move on to the next one.
PDF document icon - smallClick here to open the chart

Acrobat Reader logo To view the PDF file you will need the free Adobe Reader.


My family's a mixture
Of people, young and old.
Some of us are shy
And some of us are bold.
Some of us are grown-up
And some of us are small.
One thing we have in common
Each one cares for all.
Of course, we sometimes fight
And sometimes scream and yelp.
But we all join together
When one of us needs help.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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