Jamaican families have very special bonds, and the entire extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles – are involved in a child’s upbringing. Even neighbors have a real role in supervising the children as well. While parents are stern, they are also fun-loving and very involved in all aspects of their children’s lives, encouraging them to excel in academics and athletics. Jamaican families continue to be a guiding force in their children’s lives well into adulthood. Parents always feel responsible for their children, regardless of their age, and take the responsibility seriously.
Siblings in a Jamaican family are encouraged to look out for each other. In some cases, children are cared for by nannies or “helpers,” which is an enlightening experience for them as they are exposed to how others live in parishes beyond their own. “Helpers” tell children stories of island folklore, and they teach them about the basics, such as how to comb their hair and how to cook. Families and their helpers encourage children to be organized and well-groomed at all times – a major element of Jamaican life for women and girls is how they enjoy paying attention to their appearance.
While there may be help in a home, Jamaican children are still expected to do chores, such as making beds, setting the table for meals, making a beverage for dinner, or washing dishes. When school is in session during the week, Jamaican children are not permitted to watch television or go out. Generally, Jamaican parents do not approve of their children idly “hanging out.”
Religion is an important part of Jamaica life, and parents are quite proud when their children serve as altar boys and girls. Families also make sure that children are never bored and always make sure that their time is well spent with wholesome activities.
Holidays like Christmas, Easter and Independence Day are very important to Jamaican families, who celebrate by wearing their best clothes and making special foods and drinks appropriate to the season, such as sorrel or bun and cheese. Elaborate meals are prepared and enjoyed on holidays, and families like to watch street dances and floats at Christmas.
Jamaican parents expect their children to decide upon a career or vocation after their initial schooling. They are then expected to choose a suitable life partner, marry and create their own families. All family members are part of the marriage process, with fathers being mindful of their daughters. A father wants his daughter to marry a man who can provide well and protect his wife. Parents want their sons to marry smart, personable women who are good cooks and who can maintain a household efficiently.
Families are tightly knit in Jamaica, and even when children start leading their own lives, their families continue to preside over and worry about their best interests and well-being.