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Opinions of Saturday, 27 September 2014

Columnist: Blege, Alex

The family system and the place of grandparents today.

By Alex Blege



Family has been defined as a group of people who are related by kinship ties, that is, through birth, marriage or adoption. There are two types of families: the nuclear and the extended family.

The nuclear family refers to a married couple (husband and wife) and their children. This family system is known to be practised in Europe.

The extended family on the other hand has been defined as the collection of several nuclear families joined together. There is the view that this family system is practised in African societies and Ghana is no exception.

Both systems are not perfect since there are advantages as well as disadvantages. The family is the source of the values that hold society. It is at this level that all the qualities of every individual are learnt.

It is therefore evident that where the family loses sight of its responsibilities, individuals are left on their own to shape their attitudes so that they can fit into society.

The ability of one to mould himself or herself does not come easily. It takes a high price to pay to get to the level of discipline where the individual wins the plaudits of society.

The family is the first point of call when it comes to shaping one’s life; that is appropriate for society. In the event where the family itself does not uphold the values that conform to society the individual becomes a misfit.

All the negative attitudes that have bedeviled this country can be traced to the kind of values that are taught an individual as he or she was growing up.

One group of people in the family system who are less spoken of when it comes to the teaching of values to individuals is grandparents. A lot of people have been influenced positively or negatively by their grandparents.

Grandparents are a group of people who are repository of life’s experiences and as such giving them the needed attention, growing up with them is worth an experience.



The life experiences of grandparents are not the ones that are written in motivational books. In fact, the truth and questions about life are experienced and answered not in theoretical terms- they are answered as situations and their suitable responses and reactions occur.

I wonder whether the feeling is the same when people become grandparents as compared to when people become parents. Could the feeling be the same or may be, greater?

For instance in the Ghanaian society, a child’s relationship begins with his or her grandmother from the moment when the baby experiences cleanliness- bathing.

It is at this level that the mother of the child learns how to clean her baby. It is at this level that all the lullabies that the child’s mother had never heard are learnt.

It reminds me of my days with my grandmother. As a boy, my grandmother baths me and applies what was then known as ‘korle-bu powder’ in between my thighs and armpits.

This powder gives a burning sensation that makes me cry and before I realise sleep rescues me from the pain. I am sure that all those little things my grandmother did for me instilled the discipline of good grooming in me.

Again, as I lived with my grandfather from the age of seven upwards I learnt a lot of things. While I was living with him, I found the training very difficult and sometimes I wished that I would run away from him.

My grandfather was my teacher at home. My handwriting, fluency in written and oral English were polished due to the academic training I had from my grandfather.

Reading skills in both English language and our local dialect, Ewe were as a result of my grandfather’s training. He did not focus on my academic work only, he thought me the essence of hard work, determination, perseverance, and responsibility.

Urbanisation and modernization are common factors that are creating a gap between grandparents and their grandchildren. It is called the generational gap. Due to this, grandchildren are separated from grandparents.

Few parents will want their children to spend weekends or holidays with their parents. This is because their parents are living in the village or they do not find their parents capable enough to handle their children.

As much as grandparents have a lot to offer with respect to values, sometimes grandparents influence our thinking negatively. All the same these are human beings who have their own flaws.

Grandparents or the aged in our societies should not be left to die with all the life experiences that they have. Witch or wizard camps should neither be their places of abode.

Parents will become grandparents and the cycle will continue….



Writer’s email: kw.ameblege@hotmail.com/www.gudzetsekomla.blogspot.com