Photos, family day and building stronger connections for the future of our communities

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
"In my family, we grow our connection by spending time together - we love talking together." Photo: Getty Images
"In my family, we grow our connection by spending time together - we love talking together." Photo: Getty Images

International Day of Families is commemorated every year on 15 May, and this year I serendipitously booked a long-overdue family  photoshoot with my in-laws. All of them, I must stress. 

We gathered in a nearby forested area and tried to arrange everyone into a photogenic group while the photographer did her best to get everyone to smile and look in the right direction.

Needless to say, with eight children of all ages and many adults milling about, it was chaos. The photographer worked quickly and we soon got it over with, luckily with minimal tears and drama. 

Why bother? I did wonder to myself at one point when half the family had wandered off in one direction and the other half was consoling a distressed toddler, but then looking at the preview photos later that evening, I was reassured that it was worth it.

Photographs are moments in time, and even if one of the kids is frowning in the pic, we know he cheered up a minute later. When families live far apart or seldom see each other, it's also good to have a record of the times we are together, and to share with other far flung friends and family. 

These photos are also a reminder of the love and support that we offer each other, the people we lean on and care for and choose to spend our time with. 

But, as Alef Meulenberg, CEO of Afrika Tikkun Foundation, reminds us, the faces in your family photographs aren't just the people we turn to when we need advice, have something to  celebrate or need a shoulder to cry on.

By providing support and stability, they're also playing a part in building society. This role of the family as the foundation of our communities is worth applauding, he reminds us. 

Read: Why marriage is important for African family building

"It's easy to overlook the importance of a caring home – until you see the fallout of growing up without one", Meulenberg adds. As CEO of an organisation which provides education, health and social services to underprivileged communities throughout South Africa, he knows how this affects communities.

He points out that studies show that all areas of life are affected for children who grow up without the stability of a strong family unit – they often show problematic behaviour, have low vocabulary skills and high school dropout rates.

In South Africa, where many children grow up without the love and influence of their parents, the problems become even more significant: for example, boys who grow up in families that have been deserted by fathers tend to show greater aggression.

This may have implications for the country's high rate of gender-based violence. All of this makes sense, given that family is usually the first form of community we encounter, he says. 

It's clear that our family members shape our social development to a large extent: we take on their values, while learning about socialisation from them. Our parents, siblings and extended family members guide how we interact with others through our understanding of rules and norms. 

Also read: 'When you hurt my child, you hurt me': Chris Rock's mom says the most relatable thing about that slap

The Covid-19 pandemic also taught many of us the value of family, and the loss caused by an absence of parents, siblings and much-loved relatives. Meulenberg points out that family dynamics in many homes have also been affected by factors such as financial strain, or the impact of depression, anxiety and stress.  

Children may also be negatively impacted if both parents work a lot or spend large amounts of time away from home, while other issues placing strain on family relationships range from drug addiction to the impact of crime and physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

He highlights the work the foundation is doing at their centres, by placing a large focus on protecting children from the fallout of these challenges.

Even if your own family is in a fortunate position and is not faced with such challenging circumstances, it is still extremely important to build and maintain a strong family unit. Children who experience childhood in a happy family grow up to be positive, confident adults, capable of handling conflict effectively and nurturing strong interpersonal relationships.

Must read: My son mooned him on our second date: Single parents' funny dating stories that turned into true love

It might not have been obvious to an outsider watching us try to coordinate that photoshoot in the forest, but it actually does take little effort to develop the bonds between family members. 

Meulenberg says the most simple way to do this is by making time for each other: while we all know the importance of quality time, we also know that it is difficult to make time for each other, with all the other pressures and responsibilities of raising kids.

As for my family, after the shoot we all gathered at the nearby home of my sister-in-law, we set out snacks and the children raced their trucks up and down the passage while the parents gulped down a much-needed coffee. We chatted and laughed and the stress of the afternoon melted away, leaving only the sweet photos we have to remember the family, together. 

Family traditions are a great way to create memories and bond, Meulenberg stresses, although I can't say I'm planning to make our family photoshoot an annual event. For now, we're all just happy to have caught up, connected and clicked... and we have the photos to prove it. 

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1286 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 7178 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1490 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.10
-0.1%
Rand - Pound
20.88
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
18.63
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
12.07
+0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.2%
Platinum
1,022.91
+1.2%
Palladium
1,660.03
-0.6%
Gold
1,916.66
+0.2%
Silver
23.56
+0.4%
Brent Crude
82.17
-0.8%
Top 40
73,629
0.0%
All Share
79,802
0.0%
Resource 10
74,686
0.0%
Industrial 25
102,624
0.0%
Financial 15
16,551
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE