Its holiday time again. It is often a family time filled with love, fun and laughter. Images of Thanksgiving include a large dinner table seated with married couples, grandparents and grandchildren. Images of Christmas morning include Mom, Dad and their biological children opening gifts. However, most households don’t look like the “traditional” families of old any longer. Families come in all shapes, color and sizes.
The percent of married couples with children went down from 40% to 20% between 1970 and 2012. Households now consist of married and unmarried couples with and without children; single-parent families; blended and step-families; same-sex partnerships and marriages with and without children; grandparents raising grandchildren; committed couples who live apart; people of different races, ethnicity and sexual orientation within a family unit.
Does this worry you? The majority (two-thirds) of Americans think that family diversity is good for society according to a 2010 Pew Research survey. A declining marriage rate does not mean that people don’t value family.
Who do you count in your family? By my standards, our two dogs and one bird are included in our family unit as well as close friends and biological family. For me, family is defined by those whom I love. Some people create families of choice. Made up of people they are closest to, as seen in “Friendsgiving” rather than Thanksgiving.
What makes for a healthy and strong family? Factors of health include nurturing relationships. Nurturing family members show love, stay in touch, and respect each other’s feelings. They support each other’s goals and aspirations. Strong families have rituals and routines that are guided by shared customs. This helps members feel a sense of belonging. Family roles are well-defined but flexible. Members know who to turn to for particular problems and solutions. Strong families are resilient and work together for the best of each member. And strong families connect to a larger community and world.
The factors of health and strength don’t change regardless of the make-up of the family. Any constellation of people who are united as family can exhibit health and strengths.
If your family isn’t “traditional,” it’s OK. You be you. Strive to be a healthy and strong unit. Happy holidays.