Role Of The Child
The most important result of the contraction of the Greek family is that children become the center of concern and of emotional and financial investment, not only for their parents but for the extended family as well.
The term child centeredness means the exclusive and all-inclusive attention that parents and other adult family members pay to the needs of the child. This attention embraces the economic, emotional, developmental, and psychological dimensions of a child's life. The child's overall development is of paramount value to the parents. During this time, family relationships are considerably influenced by the responses parents are trying to give to the problems arising from the child's upbringing.
Greek families need a new way of life and a new way to manage family relationships to address the emotional and financial needs of childhood. In the past, the extended family formed the basis for family and social relationships and the training of the young. Communication was mainly oral. Stories told by grandfathers and grandmothers about their lives and hardships, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes referred to and sustained a value system that had little to do with the modern, competitive society. This way of bringing up the young was made possible not only by the large size of the family, but also by the free time that its members had at their disposal.
Education constitutes the safest basis for social upgrading in the Greek society. Young people spend a considerable amount of time obtaining educational qualifications. School hours— depending on age—and the numerous educational activities outside school (e.g., learning foreign languages, music, or computers) create an exhausting daily schedule for teenagers. Finding a job in the future is connected with qualified knowledge— which is attested by obtained certificates—and not with the quality of knowledge. Unemployment of the young, fear of unemployment, and stiff competition create insecurity and place continuous stress on the family.
The Greek educational system is highly centralized. All decisions concerning staff and curriculum are taken by the Ministry of Education, and there is a national curriculum. Children receive nine years of compulsory education consisting of six years of elementary and three years of secondary schooling (Gymnasium). Compulsory schooling starts at the age of five years and nine months (i.e., when the child will reach the age of six by the December of the current academic year).
The Greek family is determined to suffer whatever hardships necessary to make available all resources and means that their children need for a good education. The majority of parents feel that the way the Greek educational system operates leaves many gaps in their children's education, and so most families pay for extra lessons in foreign languages and activities like ballet, music, and sports. This practice is very common and not directly related to a family's economic background; even when they have limited resources, parents spend a considerable proportion of their income to pay for these supplementary activities.
It is also usual, especially when both parents work, for them to hire private tutors to help children with their homework, or to send their children to frontistiria (private evening classes) where the lessons taught in school are repeated and further analyzed in depth; this is especially common with secondary school pupils (Davou and Gourdomichalis 1997).