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

Updated April 26, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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

What Is Family?

Therapy Can Help Build Strong Families

A family in modern society isn’t necessarily about blood relations. Instead, it’s a group of people that function as a unit. Often, this includes parents and children. But there are many different types of family 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 is 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 like family. However, when we speak of family love, your love for your friends may or may not fit, depending on your relationship. 

What Is Love?

Love is a word that’s 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 commonly used to describe romantic or sexual feelings and behaviors in a romantic relationship. Some people believe love comes from God or is necessary for survival.

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

Some people get tattoos to show their love for their family, others post on their Instagram page, and some show their kids love by spending quality time with them or buying them gifts. Only you can determine how you show love 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.

But children have no choice about who is in the family group. As a child, 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 usually a deep connection. Finding the light in difficult relationships or setting firm boundaries is also a sign of love.

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

Parents have a unique opportunity to teach their children how to have a healthy, stable 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 strong attachment gives your child a greater capacity to form healthy attachments with others.

Take Responsibility 

Each person in a well-functioning family takes responsibility for what is theirs to do. The parents need to ensure everyone’s physical and emotional needs are met until the children 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 therapist can help.

Encourage Healthy Development And Independence

As children get older, they develop new skills and abilities. They 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 an emotionally strong, healthy adults. Here are some ways to do that: 

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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 often suffer.

More Ways To Build Family Love

Conflict resolution is a major challenge for many families. Healthy families build family understanding, love and affection by learning communication skills.  When families communicate well, there are fewer conflicts, and the conflicts that do occur are quickly 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 healthy family love, you contribute by helping other families meet their needs and satisfy their desires. 

Building family love is a full-time and sometimes stressful job. If you find yourself struggling to manage family relationships in a healthy way, talking to an experienced 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 counseling, families can get a mental health professional from the comfort of their homes and at a time that works for everyone. 

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

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 with BetterHelp today.

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