Families. What can we say about families? A million thoughts and feelings come to mind. Whether we were raised in a traditional two-parent heterosexual family, a divorced or widowed family, a single-parent household or a same-sex partner household, most of us grew up in some sort of family. We may be an only child, one of many siblings, biological or adopted or part of a blended family and these roles profoundly shape our experience of growing up. Then there are our personalities, our parent’s personalities and their relationship to each other and with their own families of origin. This also complicates the experience of family.
The stories we tell ourselves about the families we create are shaped by the hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties that we inherited from our own growing up. There is no doubt that our experiences of family are incredibly powerful in our psyches. We hope that the families we create will be healthy, happy and functional, that our children will always love us and each other, and that our relationship with our life partner can weather all storms and be a source of joy long after the children have formed their own adult lives. And most of us expect to be a meaningful part of our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives as long as we live.
It is rare that all our hopes and expectations are fulfilled. We are fortunate if we can realize some of them. Relationships with members of our family are close and then sometimes broken and if we are fortunate, broken and then healed. Holidays bring out the best and the worst of our families and we must figure out how to navigate these complicated waters. When we look clearly at our past experiences, we can make sense of some of this. This gives us the opportunity to reconsider the role we ourselves have played in the dynamics of our families. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge what is currently true about our family relationships and accept it the way it is, at least for the time being.
Questions to Consider:
1) Share something about the kind of family you were raised in and your experience of growing up in that family?
2) How did the characteristics of your parents and siblings and your living environment shape your attitudes about creating or becoming part of a family?
3) How is the family you created similar or different from the family you grew up in?
4) Which of your hopes and expectations about family have been actualized and which have been disappointing?
5) What is the most challenging situation you currently experience in relation to family?
6) Share any thoughts you have about the upcoming holiday season and family.
Created by Dr. Beth Firestein for Wise Women Group. [Copyright 2019]