Defining family can be a tough thing as the word “family” alone is a powerful word that conjures up multiple different meanings and emotions. How does one put into words all that define how they feel when it comes to what family is?
Oftentimes people will say a family includes a mother, father, and children all living together under one roof. Some might say a family can be anything that involves love.
Webster’s dictionary defines family as “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.” This definition is a good starting point when trying to define what family consists of, however there are modern day definitions that redefine what family is today. Yet, do these definitions define what family means to you? What comes to mind when you think of what family means?
Whether it is a mother and father together, a single mom or dad with kids, or possibly your friends that help to fill the void that your biological family wasn’t able to fulfill, the word family is a powerful word. These are people that surround you with care, concern, and love. These are the people who see you, who understand what you are going through and through it all, they stand by your side loving you through life.
But what if you don’t feel these warm feelings from your biological family or you don’t have that type of connection with your family? Where do you find that connection, love, support?
Many people today are using the phrases, “My close friends are my tribe”, or “They are my kind of people” when describing close relationships that feel like family. Sometimes our family of origin cannot meet the needs we so desire and that’s where our “tribe” comes in. People can often feel more closely understood by a family that they have chosen rather than the one they were born into. That is especially the case if their biological family is dysfunctional or toxic. A lot of times there are various reasons as to why someone would choose to call their friends more like family than their biological family. Reasons such as family dysfunction, abuse, addiction, lack of boundaries, etc.
In an article written by Michelle Blessing on the “Meaning of Family” she states, “Many people consider friends to be as close as or even closer than extended (or immediate) family. People who have lost close family members may create a family unit of friends with similar interests and goals to become replacements or enhancements to a lacking family structure. This type of family unit, while untraditional, can be just as close, if not closer, than a traditional structure. Friends are chosen by an individual; at times, these people may be more special or important than the family a person was born with. In addition, some people who have supportive families also have an extensive network of friends who they consider to be a second family or as additions to their blood or legal relatives.
Family isn’t always being related by blood or even being related at all. Family can be your church, your friends, your close co-workers who have now become dear friends, etc. Also, don’t forget about your relationship with God. So whether family is with the family you were born into, adopted into, loved into, or you have chosen, the word “family” alone has significant and special meaning. They can evoke feelings of belonging, connectedness, love, respect, and support. As Michelle Blessing states, “Whether made of blood relatives, friends, or pets, or a combination of these, your family can offer you the support you need to thrive.”