Thank you readers for speaking, listening and sharing.

Your voices are being heard and this article incorporates feedback from a few readers who said:

“great article, but I would like more information on family values that exist within the different types of family structures” -

I would like to hear back from some readers on this and then we will talk some more about these.

“by sharing personal experiences, it will help others to open up and share theirs” - my response to that was a resounding “yes, please” – this is the whole idea and I would like to encourage all readers to do just that!

I was reprimanded, though not severely, for not sharing the experiences from my role as sister-in-law so here goes:

These ranged from being welcoming, loving, understanding, helpful, supportive, accepting of differences in opinions, culture and other values as well as being a role model.

The role of grandparents was also questioned and discussed: “Why do grandparents spoil, or seem to at least, their grandchildren and do much more with them than they did with and for their own children?”

This question is asked over and over again and I am sure that the answers given are always pretty much the same .

As grandparents, more opportunities are available to spend quality time with grandchildren because as parents there was simply not enough time between the rearing of the children while working to keep a roof over their heads, putting food on the table and educating them.

Where their grandchildren are concerned, grandparents do not have to perform these roles because that is primarily the responsibility of the parents (at least it should be).

Grandparents can be more actively involved in the lives of their grandchildren and participate in many activities because time and money are often more obtainable, as compared to when they were bringing up their own children.

Grandparents can afford to take vacations, attend more school, sporting and other events which allow them to stay in touch with their grandchildren. There is more time to sit and talk with their grandchildren and give them advice about life. Another role of grandparents is also to reinforce the values initiated by the parents. In some cases, grandparents even perform the role of “replacement parent(s)” as a result of the loss of a parent(s) due to death or otherwise.

Also discussed was the role grandparents play with regard to child rearing on a whole which is not an easy task especially for young parents.

It is not a subject that you learn in school, so the more the better in terms of advice and nurturing that children get from their grandparents who have had the experience of child rearing before. It has to be borne in mind though that advice given is not always heeded. More can be researched and said on this topic but it is desired that you, the readers, contribute to this initial dialogue and thereby indicate if you wish to delve more into this topic.

There were two requests for addressing: “Crime and the family” and “Suicide and the role of the family”. I am sure you will agree that both of these are very important and extremely relevant topics for our society today, and that there is an urgency for each of these to be discussed openly through media such as this column.

I will open up this dialogue but I cannot take this on alone – this is huge! Rreaders you need to let your voices be heard here, express how you feel about these topics and your experiences, both directly and indirectly, that you have had and that you think should be shared.

Crime and the family – to jump start this discussion, I would like to talk about the family and will share two excerpts with you from a couple of sources written on family life in Belize.

The first one is taken from the Belize First Magazine ( which says, “Family Life: With so many different ethnic groups in Belize, you can’t generalize about family life. However, as in many countries, Belize faces social problems relating to the disintegration of traditional family life.

Especially in Belize City and other urbanized areas, a large percentage of babies are born out of wedlock and the traditional nuclear family is becoming less the norm”.

The second source, Countries and their Cultures website (, offers the following insight into aspects of the Belizean family life: “Despite a tradition of openly accepted liaisons, there has always been a high social value placed on church-blessed unions. Among the Creoles and Garifuna, there may be prolonged common-law unions that are eventually recognized.. Among the Maya, men and women start their conjugal lives before age 18 .

Mestizos start a few years later and tend to remain in long-lasting unions. There are stringent requirements for divorce, but partners of broken marriages often live in other common-law unions. Childbearing is not confined within the domestic unit among many Belizeans. The first child or two may be born without any agreement between the parents, to form a domestic unit. This leads to high rates of illegitimacy in some ethnic groups.

For example, between 1970 and 1980, illegitimacy among the Creole and Garifuna was 70 to 80 percent, whereas among Mestizos it was around 40 percent. The separation of childbearing from domesticity leads to a need for extended families, which are primarily cognate kin groups.

Apart from child rearing, the functions performed by kin groups include labor exchange and providing general support in times of need. Most Belizeans die intestate but abide by the spirit of the laws governing inheritance. Priority is given to legal spouses and children whether from a legal marriage or not. Similar legislation was being planned in 1999 for surviving common-law spouses. (Socialization Child rearing and early education are areas where urban people expect government support). Traditional practice persists in rural communities, where child rearing is provided by the extended family”.

This information was shared with you to provide a couple of different perspectives on the Belizean family life. While some of this information may not seem to be directly linked to the family, it is all inter-related. I am looking forward to some feedback on this to see what other concepts are out there.

Unfortunately, space and time do not permit more on this topic for now or as a matter of fact on the second one, “Suicide and the role of the family”. We will talk about these in the next article. It would be great though if I could hear back from more of you so that this conversation can be expanded in the next article and the dialogue can be more meaningful to you.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, questions and suggestions by sending them to:

The Reporter Newspaper at P.O. Box 707, Belize City, Belize or email them to indicating the Column, The Red Heart: Where Family Lives.

Remember that this is a conversation and so your voice and contribution must be heard for this dialogue to exist and continue.

The Reporter