• Dr. Bill Walker

Don’t Let Your Family Be a ‘Closed’ Family! 4 Important Reasons Why

As a parent, you want your children to grow up emotionally healthy and happy.

Did you know the type of family your kids grow up in can be a major factor in them doing so?


Your Family Operates Like a System.

Families are often viewed as a system. A ‘system’ can be defined as:

A group of things (like people) related or connected to form a united whole.

The individual members of your family are connected to one another to form a unified whole. We call this unified whole a family.

Each family has its own personality and way of operating. Some families keep to themselves while other families are the gathering place for every kid in the neighborhood.

There are names for these 2 type of families: Open & Closed.

Family scientists have known for years that closed families can have negative effects on the children who grow up in them.


Closed families share common characteristics.

Characteristics of Closed Families: [1]

  • Tightly controlled access to family space - likely to have locked doors, fences and unlisted phones. Strangers are not easily accepted into the family, if at all;

  • Connections of family members to outside people and groups (sports teams, school, pediatrician, etc.) are rigidly controlled by unwritten rules that govern its members. Many rules exist about permitted activities and who can associate with whom;

  • New connections to outsiders are difficult for members to develop - they tend to have few outside connections.

  • Privacy is valued. Members tend to be self-protective and sometimes secretive;

  • Communication is tightly channeled with little expression of conflict;

  • High priority given to being loyal to the family over all other social connections;

  • Discipline and traditions are valued. There is low tolerance of differences;

  • Change is difficult and threatening.

3 Common Problems Caused By a Closed Family:

Problem 1:

In a closed family children are not allowed to express their own opinion – especially if it disagrees with the opinion of the parents. To express disagreement is to go against the family. It is seen as an act of disloyalty to the family.

When everyone agrees with one another the boat is not rocked and the family sails along smoothly. Conflict is seen as a threat to the family's stability – even if it is a dysfunctional stability - it is still viewed as better than instability.


Kids need to be able to express their own opinions. Allowing your child to disagree in a respectful manner teaches them how to deal with conflict and disagreement in the outside world.

Learning to do this first in the safety of their home means they will enter school with the basic skills to stand up for their own beliefs and deal with conflict.

A closed family denies a child the opportunity to learn this important social skill.

Parent - you are still the boss and have final say.

Problem 2:

Closed families rarely have guests in their home. This keeps kids from being exposed to the outside world and different attitudes and beliefs.


Keeping friends and acquaintances away from your family puts an unhealthy burden on the individual members of the family. Family members end up depending entirely on one another to meet all of a child's physical, emotional, and social needs. This includes play/recreation, friendship, companionship, and other areas.

This can lead to dysfunctional relationships within the family and stunted emotional development in children.

Consider: What happens when there is an only child in a family, or one girl and two brothers, etc? The girl needs to socialize with OTHER GIRLS – not just her two brothers or mother.

Clarification: There are people and attitudes that do NOT need to be brought into our homes. But many closed families go so far as to discourage or allow even friends and trusted acquaintances of family members into the home.

Problem 3:

In a closed family, children are often not allowed to spend time with the families of their friends or participate in after-school activities.


This keeps children from learning about the way other people live and being exposed to other people’s interests, points of view and ideas.

The adults in a closed family would respond and say, "This is exactly what we want. We want to protect our kids from other points of view and ideas.”

My response is: ‘Why not teach your children HOW to react and deal with other points of view and ideas? You cannot keep your children isolated from the world forever.

Eventually, they will be exposed to the very things you are sheltering them from. They need the opportunities (with your guidance) to learn how to adapt and respond to different environments other than their own family.

Clarification: Again, parents - there are some families/lifestyles that need to be off limits. Families with lifestyles that allow behaviors that strongly violate your moral belief system (drug use, semi-nudity, profanity, pornography, etc) have good reason to be off-limits for your kids.

Problem 4:

The Biggest Danger of All Dangers: Social Isolation.

Closed families create social isolation.

Social Isolation damages your child in all areas of their life!

Research has found that social isolation can literally change the brain in emotionally harmful ways. [2]

Too much social isolation has been found to cause increased aggressiveness towards unfamiliar others, persistent fear, and hypersensitivity to threatening situations.

There is NOTHNG good about social isolation over the long-term.


Christianly Speaking

Families in the Bible are rarely portrayed as closed families. In Bible times there were no Holiday Inns or McDonalds. People had to be open and dependent on one another in order to survive. This included opening one's family to take care of those in need.

The Bible word for this is Hospitality. Hospitality is the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors.

God commands His people to be hospitable.

Isaiah 58:7

Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (NLT)

1 Peter 4:9

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. (NKJ)


The Bottom Line

A closed family is not a healthy family, nor a helpful environment to raise emotionally healthy children.

If you believe you have created a closed family environment take some steps to ‘open it up’ a little more.

1) Allow your children to respectfully express differing opinions.

Listen to them respectfully. You are still the boss and you can always make the final decisions. But let them be heard.

2) Invite a trusted non-family member(s) or couple over for Saturday supper or Sunday lunch.

Try to do this with different people once a month. Even better if these guests have kids the same age (or close) to your children.

3) Allow your kids to spend time at their friend’s houses.

Not overnight, but maybe for an afternoon. Only do this after finding out a little about the friend’s family. Use your judgment on this matter.

Before You Go

Thank you for reading this article.

I’m still looking for 5 good souls – just 5 who will ‘like’, ‘share’, or ‘comment’ so that a few more people on FaceBook might be able to read this post.

There are many closed families among us. What if you liking or sharing this post helped just 1 family with kids open up a little more?

Help me make this happen.

A simple ‘click’ on your part may make all the difference in putting them on the path to finding true contentment.

Thanks in advance for doing 1 small thing to make a big difference!

for the family,

--dr. bill