With their extended family living in the same neighbourhood, the Acostas have plenty of others helping—and sometimes overstepping—with their kids. Although conflict is sometimes part of the package, here’s why they’re more than happy to have their family involved—especially going into the teen years.

By Stefanie Phillips/photography Ryan Francoz/ hair & makeup Natalia Zurawska/Judy Inc.

 

THE ACOSTA FAMILY has been expanding their roots in their Markham, Ont. home since moving there 16 years ago to start a family. With grandparents from both sides living minutes away and Kirstyn’s sister new to the neighbourhood, the family is growing up together and growing closer than ever before. But living close has brought conflict, and with it some awkward and unwanted confrontation.

As Xavier enters his pre-teen years, and Chloe enters her teens, this family has had to deal with attitude adjustments, and finding the right consequences to match rebellious behaviour. But both parents say they love watching their kids’ personalities bloom—even if a few timeouts are a part of their growth.

Has having all of your family living close to you helped raise your family?
Kirstyn: Absolutely, 100 per cent. [Jose’s] mom picks them up and takes them to school every morning. Having the grandparents close to home [is helpful] even as the kids get older. I feel like it’s more eyes. Everyone thinks when
the kids are younger, they need a lot of attention, but I feel like they need just as much when they get older, even more so maybe.

How do you keep everyone on the same the page when it comes to helping with your kids?
Jose: That’s a bit tricky. I grew up in a house where we said whatever was on our mind. If something bothered us, we would say it. So if my mom does something I disagree with, I go talk to her. That doesn’t always mean it’s the greatest conversation. We still butt heads even at the age we’re at. But that has always been our relationship.
Kirstyn: *Laughing* My family is the opposite.
Jose: Yes, they’re a bit more diplomatic. If they did something that upset Kirstyn, she would have to figure out a way to say it. I blurt it out, but she finds a way to say it and to have that private conversation.

What do you do to blend the families together, smoothly?
Kirstyn: In the end, talking always resolves it. When we don’t talk with them, it’s harder. Ultimately he deals with his side of the family, and I deal with mine.
Kirstyn: My biggest issue is the stuff given to my kids. My parents and my sister show love through gifts, and I know that is a form of love, but it’s not my first one. So I try to be respectful of it, but I find it really fricken annoying. I
feel like I want everybody to value everybody’s experience with each other.

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The Acosta Family: Kirstyn, 41, Jose, 41, Xavier, 9, Chloe, 13

Kind of taking a shift now, what are your kids interested in?
Jose: Xavier is very much like me. He has a very competitive edge. He loves his sports. So if we ask him what happened in school that day, he’ll say ‘We had floor hockey and we’re in first place.’
Kirstyn: Chloe is in the poetry slam club at school, which is pretty cool. She’s doing a group presentation with her friends in front of a bunch of people. But, she doesn’t share it with us.
Jose: Yeah, she keeps it very quiet from us. When she won the speech award for her speech on a fear of clowns and anxiety, I had no idea until I saw it on the report card. I asked her what it was and she said, ‘nothing.’

Have you noticed a change in Chloe’s behaviour as she emerges into teen-hood?
Together: Yes!
Jose: A couple days ago she said something and we both turned to her, and said ‘you can’t do that. ‘

How do you deal with her when those lines get crossed?
Kirstyn: It’s better when you don’t explode on them in those moments. We usually just state the behaviour and tell them, that we don’t appreciate that behaviour.
Jose: Those situations work when it’s one on one, because if it were both of us disciplining her, it wouldn’t go well.

How do you come up with consequences when you get into disagreements with Chloe?
Kirstyn: To be honest, there aren’t a lot of consequences in our house right now with her, because really the only problem we’re having with her right now is her attitude. We usually just send her to her room. Sometimes we
say ‘come down when you’re ready to talk’ and sometimes we go up and ask her why she’s up there. But often times, she’s not ready to talk so we wait for her to come down.

How do you keep the consequences fair?
Kirstyn: Occasionally we ask her what she thinks her punishment should be…and usually she’s bang on, or worse than what I would have done.

Why do you think it’s important to let them make their own decisions?
Kirstyn: I think it’s so important at her age…Kids eight and under are still at that egocentric family stage where they don’t mind the family routine and hierarchy of that. But, I feel that, especially as an early teen, she’s just starting
to break out of [the routine and hierarchy]. So, we give her as many responsibilities that she can handle to feel empowered at her age. But she also knows that (Jose and I ) are going to have opinions.
Jose: I think it’s also the definition of maturity. If you’re able to think about what you’ve done and think about your own consequences or realizing your definition of right and wrong and how to solve it, that’s growing up.
Kirstyn: I think the most important part of parenting at this stage is to allow the mistakes to happen, and expect them to.

How do you control the freedom you give her with her friends?
Kirstyn: There is a lot of check-ins, and cellphones are certainly there to help. I always ask her, who’s there and who’s not. And I know she’s only going to certain kids’ houses, and I know their parents.
As far as I’m concerned, the check-ins are still going to happen as she gets older. I don’t care if she’s 16; we need to know where she is.

Five years from now, what is your biggest wish for your kids?
Kirstyn: I just want Chloe to be able to do what ever she wants to do without being scared about it.
Jose: The both of them are really caring kids, and I want them to keep that persona even as they get older.

Is there any advice you would give to parents currently raising teens, or about to?
Kirstyn: Yeah, get a wine cellar. (Laughs.)