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

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Familial love is a special type of love that comes with its unique feelings, behaviors, challenges, and rewards. Once you understand what it truly is, you can learn how to build family relationships by genuine parental love and care.

What Is Family?

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A family isn’t necessarily about blood relations-it’s a group of people that function as a unit. Often, but not always, this includes parents and children. There are many different types of family to consider. Whether it includes a brother, a sister, cousins, grandparents, aunt, uncles, a niece, a nephew, in-laws, out-laws, or step-siblings, no family is the same.

Family can also mean all the descendants of a common ancestor. Some people consider their friends like family. However, when we speak of family love, the love you have with your friends might or might not fit, depending on what type of relationship you have. 

What Is Love?

Love is a word that’s been used in so many ways, it’s nearly lost its meaning. We may say we love ice cream or skiing when what we mean is that we enjoy it. Love is of course commonly used to describe romantic or sexual feelings and behaviors in a romantic relationship. Some people believe love comes from God, or love is necessary for survival.

In the context of family love, the term refers to bonds characterized by deep affection, respect, loyalty, and healthy attachment in your heart. Family relationships are different from other types of bonds. The following characteristics of family love set it apart from other types of love relationships. Some people tattoo ink on their arms to show their love for their family, others post on their Instagram page, and some show their kids love by providing a safe place for them to live. Nothing can define how you show love other than yourself and 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 choose children to adopt or bring people into your family.

But children have no choice about who is in the family group. You don’t get to choose your siblings, and you certainly don’t get to choose your parents. Despite these limitations, family love still flourishes. It isn’t always healthy love, but it is a deep connection, nonetheless. Finding the light in difficult relationships or setting hard boundaries is often also a sign of love.

You Face the Challenges of Living Together

Privacy is limited because of your proximity. 

The more mature that person gets, though, the more they need to be mindful of how their behavior affects others.

Their behavior might change, and they may have less capacity to manage daily living. 

You Have Family Traditions

Nearly every family has traditions. Family traditions may relate to holidays, but they can also be associated with other special days, situations, or rites of passage. 

It’s Unconditional Love

Healthy family love is unconditional. You might even have to remove yourself from the family situation. In a sense, they are still your family and always will be.

You Show Respect for Each Other

You Work Together to Achieve Family Goals

Just as each person can have their own goals, families also have group goals they work together to achieve. For example, a family might decide to go on a camping vacation. 

You Communicate with Each Other

You Enjoy Activities Together

Families that enjoy activities as a group build a stronger family love. Whether you’re going on an outing or spending the evening playing board games, the interactions between you bring you closer together.

Building Family Love

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

Form Healthy Attachments

As parents, you have a unique opportunity to teach your children how to have a healthy, secure attachment. By being a responsive caregiver, you can start the secure attachment that research has shown leads to higher social functioning later in life. Along with better mental and physical health, a secure attachment gives your child a greater capacity to form healthy attachments with others.

Take Responsibility for What’s Yours to Do

Each person in a well-functioning family takes responsibility for what is theirs to do. The parents need to make sure everyone’s physical and emotional needs are met until the children assume responsibility or become an adult.

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’re still confused, a therapist can help.

Encourage Healthy Development and Independence

As your child gets older, they develop new skills and abilities. They have more opportunities to explore their world as they develop the independence needed to choose their activities outside the home. As a parent, you need to encourage their development into an emotionally strong, healthy adult. Give them the tools they need to learn. Give them 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. You can also show them your love through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.

Be Kind

Kindness is sometimes undervalued. Kindness, though, is a hallmark of healthy family love. Not hurting others unnecessarily must be balanced with self-esteem for authentic kindness. 

Make Time for Each Other

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A family that lives under the same roof but spends no time together doesn’t 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 can’t be healthy, and the children suffer.

Practice Forgiveness

When you don’t forgive a friend, it’s easy to let them drift out of your life.

More Ways to Build Family Love

Conflict resolution is a major challenge for most families. Healthy families increase family love and understanding by learning communication skills. When families communicate well, there are fewer conflicts, and the conflicts that happen can be resolved.

In families with growing children, family love changes as they mature. Being prepared for these changes will safeguard your family love.

Your family can provide a strong support system for you. If you have a healthy family love, you contribute by helping other families meet their needs and satisfy their desires. Unless you’re the parent of a child, you don’t take on responsibility for them; you offer your assistance because you want to make their life easier.

Building family love is a full-time and often stressful job. If you find you can’t manage family relationships in a healthy way, talking to an experienced professional might benefit you.

 If you need this type of help, you can talk to a licensed counselor for online family therapy at BetterHelp. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

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!”


Family love isn’t a myth. You can have the kind of family love that makes life more satisfying. When you do, everyone in the family can benefit. Take the first step today.

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