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Word Of The Month: Family    

Word Of The Month: Family

Art by FISK

For the most part, life happens in the grey areas—the undefined, the in between, the unique, and the individual. While there are many common experiences, we each color them in our own way. Two people who sat next to each other in the same elementary school class with the same teacher at the same time can have vastly different experiences. Yet that class experience , yet that aspect of their lives still defines them both individually and collectively. Those aspects that define us both individually and collectively are an enormous part of the human experience. And few of those aspects are more important than family.

There is no one shape, size, or look to a family. What the word “family” means is even open to broad interpretation. Each of us have our own connotations and definitions. No matter what that definition is, what unites them all is that we each have one. 

When you start to discuss mental health or psychology, you don’t get very far before “nature vs. nurture” enters the conversation. But whether you believe minds are affected by biological predisposition or shaped by the world around us, family implications are a constant. 

Since it is such an important part of our mental health and our overall existence, “family” is our word of the month for December.

From discussing family members' mental health experiences to learning how to disagree with family members, all month we will explore the unique ways our idea of family shapes who we are. 

And while definitions of family may vary widely, it’s important to address some common constructs in order to have a better understanding before diving deeper. 

In many ways, the stereotypical idyllic American family archetype has become outmoded, replaced with a more modern interpretation. These days families with multiple marriages, adopted siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, single parents, same-sex parents, and many combinations therein have moved closer to being the rule than the exception.

Whatever it looks like, some semblance of the “making” of a family remains constant. And no matter who the members are, we still have to consciously participate in our role within the family, adhere to (or challenge) family dynamics, and work on the amorphous blob of what family structures look like. 

For some people, however, family is something they have to find within themselves, either by necessity or choice. People who have dealt with loss, estrangement, or abandonment don’t have to be told twice about how family-related issues can impact mental wellness. But that impact doesn’t have to be negative. With specific therapies, it is possible to learn to reparent yourself, to connect with your inner child, to rewrite the past, and take shape of how you want to define family in your future. 

These are just a few examples of family dynamics. Since it’s such a personal concept, we really want to hear what family means to you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Additionally, all month long we’ll be asking our followers on Instagram to let us in on their definition of family. We’ll be sharing those responses throughout the month so keep an eye out.

Share your journey and keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.