The Typical Jamaican Family

If you are one of the fortunate people to be born in Jamaica, or are from Jamaican heritage, then you will be able to relate to the special bond that exists between families.

Jamaican parents are by nature very strict. From early childhood they urge their children to excel academically and athletically, they also encourage them to be discerning in regards to the company they keep. Although Jamaican parents are very stern, there is also another side to them. They are usually fun loving and very involved in all phases of their children’s lives.

They believe in rewarding their offspring for their accomplishments and endeavours.

Unlike some cultures where parents tend to sever the connection with their children, once they have acquired their legal age. Jamaican families remain a constant guiding force in their children’s lives well beyond adulthood. You are never too old to be scolded or be given advice. As far as they are concerned you are always their child and they take that responsibility seriously.

Part of the Jamaican family life consists of siblings being taught togetherness and looking out for each other. Sometimes the children are taken care of by nannies or “helpers”. This is a very enlightening experience because they develop a wealth of knowledge about life and other Jamaicans living in different parishes. The “helpers” tell them stories about Jamaican folklore, they teach them to cook and comb their hair. Families and helpers urge the children to be well groomed and organized at all times. A big part of Jamaican life is, that Jamaican girls and women enjoy having their hair done on a regular basis, and pay keen attention to their appearance.

Although there is help in the home, a Jamaican child is expected to do chores, such as; making his/her bed, setting the dinner table, making a beverage for dinner or washing the dinner plates. During the week when school is in session they are not allowed to watch television or cavort around town. As a rule, Jamaican parents do not condone their children idly “hanging-out”.

When born into a Jamaican family, the whole family becomes involved in your upbringing. It is not just mother and father. It is grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Everyone contributes “their say” at some point or another. Religion and going to church is also a very important part of Jamaican life. I remember going to church on Saturday evenings, and having to be formally dressed for the occasion. It was also a great honor for parents to have their children serve as altar boys or girls in the church. As children growing up in Jamaica we never really experienced boredom, because our families made certain that our time was well spent. Whether in sporting activities or visiting with relatives that were close to our ages, we always had something to do. It was also very popular to spend holidays on the North coast of Jamaica (Negril, Ocho Rios), or help our parents at their place of business.

Our holidays and summers were always well planned. Easter, Christmas and Independence are prominent holidays in Jamaica. Families celebrate by wearing festive clothing, making a beverage called sorrel and baking Jamaican bun. It is a time when everyone celebrates, relatives come by, and very elaborate meals are prepared. Meals such as ham, curry goat, stew peas and rice, and an all time favorite beverage, sour sop juice. The most enjoyable things families do at Christmas is to watch the street dances and floats, and also play with starlights. Starlights look like incense sticks, however, when lit they sparkle like stars in the sky.

In Jamaica, not only do parents keep an eye on their children, but also neighbors and friends always seem to take great interest in each other’s children.

Once out of school parents monitor their children’s career and encourage them to soar to greater heights.

Jamaicans do not give their children a “sowing your oats time”. It is expected that after one has decided on a vocation, that one will choose a suitable life partner, marry and build a life together. Family members are normally part of this process. Jamaican fathers are mindful of their daughters. They want their daughters to marry someone who will protect and provide for them very well. When it comes to their male children, parents want their sons to marry women who are smart, personable, good cooks and home keepers.

Jamaican families believe in lavish weddings. The weddings are filled with pomp and circumstance, including all the social graces and etiquette. Jamaicans are very loyal to tradition. Most Jamaican marriages last because they believe in creating a solid foundation, building a life together and enduring the difficult times.

A father teaches his daughter not to “quibble” over petty matters and sons are taught to appease their wives. Jamaican women are groomed to handle their households in an effective manner.

This may seem like a very simple solution. However, It has been successful and has worked for many centuries.

Jamaican families are tightly woven together like a knit. If you are unkind to one member of the family, the rest of the family empathizes. Even though a child may embark on a new life as a wife or husband, the families still preside over their interests and well-being.

In conclusion, I believe it is a fair assumption to say that Jamaican families are like the Musketeers, “One for all and all for one.”

About the author

Margaret J.Bailey