Family” is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It brings to mind feelings of warmth, security and belonging. But what does it really mean to build an authentic and rewarding family in the 21st century? In South Africa, where diverse cultures meet, the concept of family is often complex. This article looks into the ways South Africans are redefining what it means to nurture a home and cultivate meaningful relationships in this ever-changing world.
1. Broadening the Definition of Family
Many South African families are not what has traditionally been considered ‘normal’. For generations, single parents, extended families, communities and non-traditional families have been a large part of the home-life in South Africa. In addition, with the increasing rate of poverty and disappearance of the traditional nuclear family, many displaced people, especially children, have been embraced by other families within their communities. As a result of this, families have been formed that transcend economic and ideological backgrounds.
Modern day parenting has changed drastically; the idea that one must be married and have 2.5 children is no longer the norm. Whether it is a single parent family, a two-grandparent household, a blended family, an extended family, or a queer family — existing family norms have been stretched wide. The narrative of the ‘ideal family’ is being challenged more and more in South Africa — with many families choosing to design how they wish to live and parent. With this freedom compounding, many in South Africa are now realising and affirming the power of re-imagining family.
- More S.A. families are single mother-headed.
- The traditional nuclear family is becoming less common.
- More S.A. families are forming across ideological and economic backgrounds.
- Parenting and existing family norms are being challenged and reimagined.
2. Redefining Traditional Family Structures
South African families are changing. With the pressures and opportunities of modern living, traditional family structures are being redefined in creative ways. With the focus shifting from nuclear to extended and even blended families, the needs of the family are no longer as rigidly defined as they used to be.
Contemporary families are forming a patchwork of bonding and belonging featuring a diverse range of family members including:
- Cohabiting couples
- Unmarried couples
- Same-sex couples
- Families headed by single parents
- Complex family units
In South Africa, we’re creating our own family structure and customs. This has led to increased acceptance and greater respect for alternative lifestyles, with expanded definitions of family becoming more socially accepted. New legal frameworks are also being put in place to accommodate and protect families of all forms.
These changes come with challenges and opportunities. We have to learn to deal with issues around trust, parenting, and house rules, but the rewards of having a family that is unique and built around shared values and mutual respect are far greater. In our ever-evolving society, will be earning its place on the family tree of South Africa.
3. Creating Connections in a Disconnected World
Finding Innovative Ways to Connect
As South Africa struggles to keep pace with technology, one of the most pressing problems we face is the disconnect between people and communities. We need to find ways to connect people in meaningful ways, whether it’s through physical meet-ups, virtual events, or a combination of the two.
Fortunately, there are plenty of initiatives out there that are working to bridge the gap. The ‘What’s on the Ground’ project uses public GIS data to create an interactive map of events throughout the country, so you can easily find meet-ups and activities near you. Another organisation, The FutureGroup, have developed a range of tech enabled initiatives aimed at connecting people across different cultures and countries, from virtual book clubs to online peer-mentoring sessions.
These two projects exemplify how creative thinking can go a long way in tackling tough social issues. So next time you’re looking for a way to connect with others, don’t forget to check out these innovative solutions.
4. Prioritizing Nurturing within South African Homes
Infusing Self-Care and Nurturing Practices into South African Homes
South African homes are charged with creating a haven of warmth and love through empowering their family with physical, emotional, spiritual and mental nourishment. There’s no doubt that prioritizing the self-care and nurturing of family members, particularly the children, is a fundamental part of keeping family health and vitality alive.
Nurturing within the home can take many forms, and range from daily activities such as preparing nutritious meals to meditating together or practicing yoga. Going outdoors and connecting with nature is another great option for South African families to bond and plug into the calming energy of the natural world. Making artwork, singing and taking part in activities that encourage cognitive learning and bring joy to the family are further ways to nurture wellbeing. Taking time out to simply talk and make meaningful conversation helps to deepen the bond between family members. Establishing positive home norms, such as non-violence, listening with empathy, gratitude and mutual respect all build on the foundations of a healthy and happy South African family.
In order to ensure that nurturing practices are upheld, families should:
- Create a safe, relaxed and tranquil home environment
- Unplug from technology and connect more deeply in person
- Show respect for everyone’s unique opinions and views
- Listen to each other with patience, understanding and empathy
- Commit to regularly expressing gratitude and celebrating milestones
- Practice self-care and encourage others to do the same
- Grow a collective capacity for resilience and authenticity
The home is the cornerstone of cultivating strong family bonds and establishing a healthy environment for generations to come. When families take time to nurture and care for one another, it creates a ripple effect of positivity coursing through all areas of their lives. South African families have the power to change the world one home at a time.
The concept of family has shifted profoundly throughout the ages, now reaching a threshold of inclusivity and care. Through embracing an open definition of what it truly means to be family, South Africa proves itself a case study for how the world can embrace the principle of care and nurture within the home. With the diverse range of individuals present in South African households, the 21st century stands as a new frontier of growth and understanding. It is in this unifying spirit that South Africa stands as an example of how to redefine family, and foster positive, nurturing communities all throughout the world.