Family Love: What It Is, What It Looks Like, And How To Make It Happen

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Familial love can be a special type of love that often comes with unique feelings, behaviors, challenges, and rewards. In general, a family is a group of people who share a common ancestor. However, it can be possible to form a family with the people of your choosing, regardless of whether you’re related by blood. If you’re interested in forming healthy bonds with your family members, it can be helpful to take responsibility, encourage healthy development and independence, be kind, make time for each other, communicate effectively, and practice healthy conflict resolution skills. Challenges and conflicts between family members may be alleviated by working with a family therapist online.

What is family?

Therapy can help build strong families

family in modern society isn’t necessarily about blood relations. Instead, it’s generally a group of people that function as a unit. Often, this includes parents and children, but there can be many different types of families to consider. Your family of origin (the family unit in which you are raised) may not necessarily be your biological family. Whether it includes a brother, a sister, cousins, grandparents, an aunt, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws, or stepsiblings, no family may be exactly the same.

Having a family can result from one's desire to fulfill their love and belonging needs. Family can also mean all the descendants of a common ancestor. Some people consider their friends to be their family. However, when we speak of family love, your love for your friends may or may not fit into this definition, depending on your relationship. 

What is love?

Love is a word that can be used in so many ways that it can be difficult to know which meaning is most accurate. We may say we love ice cream or skiing when what we mean is that we enjoy it. The word “love” is commonly used to describe romantic or sexual feelings and behaviors in a romantic relationship. Some people believe love comes from a higher power or is necessary for survival.

In the context of family love, the term “love” normally refers to a bond characterized by deep affection, respect, loyalty, and healthy attachment. Family relationships can be different from other types of bonds.

Some people may get tattoos to show their love for their family. Others post on their social media, and some may show their children love by spending quality time with them or buying them gifts. Only you may determine how you want to show love to your family by doing what feels authentic to you.

You can’t always choose your family

You typically choose the person you want to start a family with when you’re an adult. You might also choose children to adopt or bring other people into your family.

However, children usually have no choice about who is in the family group. As a child, you don’t necessarily get to choose your siblings, and you generally don’t get to choose your parents. Despite these limitations, family love often still flourishes. It may not always be healthy love, but it is usually a deep connection. Finding the light in difficult relationships and setting firm boundaries can also be signs of love.

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Building family love

Healthy family love can be a choice that typically starts with the parents. It isn’t usually something that happens without thought and dedication. There may be several ways to build healthy family love throughout the lifespan of the family.

Form healthy attachments

Parents may have a unique opportunity to teach their children how to form healthy, stable attachments. By being a responsive caregiver, you can foster the secure attachment style that often leads to higher social functioning later in life. Along with better mental and physical health, a strong attachment style can give your child a greater capacity to form healthy attachments with others.

Take responsibility 

Each person in a well-functioning family may take responsibility for what is theirs to do. The parents normally need to ensure everyone’s physical and emotional needs are met until the children can assume responsibility or become adults.

Talking to other parents you admire or attending a parenting support group can help you sort out who needs to be responsible for what. If you still have questions, a family therapist may offer insight.

Encourage healthy development and independence

As children get older, they tend to develop new skills and abilities. They may have more opportunities to explore their world as they develop the independence to choose their activities outside the home. As a parent, you can encourage their development into emotionally strong, healthy adults. Here are some potential ways to do so: 

  • Give them the tools they need to learn.

  • Provide them with support as they find their own identity.

  • Allow them to move away from you emotionally at times while providing a safe space for them to return to.

  • Tell them you love them.

  • Show them your love through gestures, facial expressions, and physical affection.

Be kind

Kindness can be undervalued. Still, it is often a hallmark of healthy family love. Not hurting others unnecessarily must usually be balanced with self-esteem for authentic kindness to flourish within a family unit. 

Make time for each other

Therapy can help build strong families

A family that lives under the same roof but spends no time together may not have the opportunity to develop and maintain healthy family bonds. If the parents are so busy with their adult lives that they ignore their children, the family may not be healthy, and the children may experience challenges as a result.

More ways to build family love

Conflict resolution can be a major challenge for many families. Healthy families may build family understanding, love, and affection by learning communication skills.  When families communicate well, there are typically fewer conflicts, and the conflicts that do occur are often resolved quickly.

In families with growing children, family love usually changes as they mature. Being prepared for these changes can safeguard your family's love. Your family can provide a strong support system for you. If you have healthy family love, you may contribute by helping other families meet their needs and satisfy their desires. 

Getting professional help with family love

Building family love can be a stressful full-time job in some cases. If you find yourself struggling to manage family relationships in a healthy way, talking to a licensed mental health professional might benefit you.

A family’s busy schedule can often be an obstacle to traditional therapy, though. You may have a full calendar of events lined up already. Perhaps there’s no time for yet another in-person appointment. Online therapy can be a viable option for busy families. With this alternative form of therapy, families can get help from a mental health professional from the comfort of their homes and at a time that works for everyone. 

This mode of therapy doesn’t generally sacrifice quality, either. A 2021 meta-narrative review found that families routinely experience comparable outcomes with family therapy online as they do in more traditional office settings. 

Counselor reviews

“Alisha has let me view situations in another perspective. Like the stressful times, I’ve gone (still going) through with my family and my work. Thank you, Alisha!”

“Jack is great! He helps me keep things in perspective and uses visualizing methods to help me focus on what I need to do for myself, which I turn helps my family be more solid. Helps me fill my toolbox and make sure I focus on me even when I’m trying to take care of everyone else. Jack is great and so is BetterHelp!”


While the most common definition of family may be people who share a common ancestor, many people form their own families with the people they care about, even if they’re not technically related. Healthy family love can involve taking responsibility, being kind, making time for each other, encouraging independence and healthy development, communicating effectively, and healthily resolving conflicts. If you’re experiencing issues within your family unit, you might consider online family therapy for professional guidance.
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