Family life can either be a source of great joy or feel like a terrible burden. Maintaining relationships can take a great deal of work, and if the people nearest us are facing challenges, the whole family can end up suffering. Family counseling is a specialized field within psychotherapy, and family counselors typically help families weather all kinds of storms. While we'd like to think that love can overcome all obstacles, a little knowledge can certainly help smooth the way to achieving true familial happiness.
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Years ago, a traditional view of the family consisted of two parents, mother and father, and their children. Society has evolved past the traditional definition of family. The modern idea of family is far different from the nuclear unit. The contemporary idea of family is not what it once was. In the 21st century, a family can mean many different things. The primary foundation of a family is a unit of people who love each other and have a unique bond. In the 21st century, some children are being raised by single parents or their grandparents. Some children are raised by a mom and a dad, while two moms or two dads raise others. There are families with no children or adopted children. The bottom line is that family means something different to each person. We can no longer rely on the basic definition of family as two parents and their children because the word means much more than that now.
A traditional family (or nuclear family) is comprised of a man, woman, and their children. The children in the unit can be biological or adopted. In the traditional model of a family unit, the man and woman are married. Many sitcoms from the 1970s and 80s depict a variety of traditional family units. For many reasons, the percentage of traditional families has declined in The United States since the 1970s. During that decade, traditional families made up 40% The United States household; however, by 1990 that number went from 40% to 25.6%. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the year 2010 approximately 20% of United States households identified as traditional families.
Family can impact your wellness. If you have a positive relationship with your family, you may find your physical and mental health improve. Part of being mentally healthy is developing and maintaining close relationships with your family. Close familial relationships have even demonstrated the effect of decreasing the probability of chronic illness, including mental and physical conditions. People who get married or have life partner can rely on someone else as to be their emotional support system when they need help. They are also somebody who you can collaborate with on decision-making and financial matters.
In the United States we tend to emphasize individualism; however, other cultures recognize the importance of family and still value the individual. For example, the extended family plays a significant role in the Hispanic community. The traditional or nuclear family is appreciated; however, the culture recognizes the importance of grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces nephews, and cousins. Here’s a valuable example of how a family can mean so much more than just mom, dad, sister and brother. In Australian Indigenous culture, the concept of family or kinship determines how a person relates to their society. An individual learns about Moiety. Moiety is Latin for ‘half.’ The moiety can derive from their mother’s side or their father’s side of the family. People who share the same Moiety family roots can’t marry one another. Indigenous people also learn about “Totem.” Each human being has at a minimum of four Totems. These totems represent their nation, clan and family group and they also have a personal Totem. Their own totem tells the individual about their strengths and flaws. Many other cultures value family and express their fundamental respect for it in different ways.
When you have discord or trauma in your family, it can be hard to let go of it. Every family is different and none are perfect. When members of your family hurt you, it can affect you for years. Your pain is valid, and just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean that they’re healthy for you to be around. People have toxic members of their family who they choose to cut out of their lives. When family problems are too intense to cope with, it can help to talk about these issues with a mental health professional. That could be an online counselor.
When you’re having trouble coping with family issues, speaking to an online counselor can help. Counseling is an excellent place to work talk about the painful experiences from your past that you need to work out. The counselors at BetterHelp know about the common issues that families face. They can support you by helping you better understand yourself and how your family has impacted your social and emotional development. You might be surprised as to what you learn about yourself in counseling. Search our extensive network of online therapists and find one who is right for you.