Two Important Characteristics That Tell You Your Family Is a Family

Two Important Characteristics That Tell You Your Family Is a Family

Why is family so important and when we say family, what do we really mean? What really is family? Continue reading for these answers!

Why is family so important and when we say family, what do we really mean? What really is family? I think to define it and realise its importance we should look at what is at the heart of family.

1. The number one characteristic is SUPPORT

In a family, there has to be support, one for the other. This means in good times and bad times can we find that little extra something for someone? Whatever that is whether it be financial or emotional help, finding time to talk, sticking up for them in the face of great opposition, watching the three-year old while you take some time off, the list is endless. Most of the time we can but the trouble is, in a lot of families, it just isn't there. The Good Book says, do unto others as you wish they would do unto you - my simplified version. But it seems more and more it is, do as best you can with little time for going out of your way to really help.

For the last two to three decades, family and especially large families have suffered as a result of the move from farm and agricultural family life to the more urban scene where someone leaves home to 'make' it. This move from the family home is something most of us have experienced whether it is us or we know someone who has done this. We hear stories about struggling, suffering disrespect and wondering if what they were doing was right. We also hear stories about eventually achieving their goals but they find themselves feeling the need to go back home for a visit. So there must be something valuable that is drawing us back home.

This is why I think the first feature must be support one for the other as support comes in many different ways. Support is not necessarily money or perhaps having somewhere to rest your head. It's not being able to borrow the car in an emergency or bringing new clothes for the children on every birthday. In other words it's not always physical. Nor is it always clear, straightforward and well-defined. I remember movies where families have come about as a result of two people from different cultures marrying and bringing with them all of their family (children and/or relatives) to make a really large family to form what others might call an extended family. In this kind of setting, although finance may well be important, it is really easy to see how much more often the support between members is emotional and cognitive, stretching across generations and bringing together different members and age groups. Grandparents help to fix the garage or teach the children how to play a musical instrument. Daily school runs become less tedious as there are more persons to help. Different cultural practices become a way of life as they are included into the daily routine.

Clearly support is a mix of emotions, finances and cognition as having this characteristic ensures effective, companionable communication which is designed to help the entire family unit strive and be successful. Support means empathy so that family goals are clear, respect is given and we can all learn from our mistakes together.

Two Important Characteristics That Tell You Your Family Is a Family

Sai De Silva

2. The number Two characteristic is CAMARADERIE

To me this second feature is that peculiar knack of knowing what the other is thinking and therefore being on the 'same page' as they say. You can make fun of one another without any offence. You can joke about mishaps or judgments using a single word or phrase. You can use your own language and it is understood. You can feel good about someone else's achievements and show it in unique ways that only you and your family understand. Sometimes we are not so good on the respect for each other, but we acknowledge the need for and the lack of when it occurs. I know we take this for granted but I bet when separated from each other, we sort of miss that belonging?

All of us want to grow, develop and in some way, move on. We also like to think there is someone there that is similar to us and we can relate to them in different way from all those other people we know. Well then family is not always by birth is it? What about families with step moms and step fathers, adopted parents, foster parents, spiritual sisters, brethren... They are all family and this they call blended families. They are all family and they provide the support and the camaraderie for all the members.

I just wanted to think about this out loud as families seem to be under a great deal of pressure as we try to keep together while fighting the economic and social challenges. In all the research I have done with families, across different cultures, and all different family types, I hear the same sentiment. The family is the building block of the society. That's where we look forward to the future and remember what has passed. Even in the single parent family, and this is usually a woman and her child or children, I would hear how important it was to have a 'good' relationship between herself and her children. When they were just babies, then it was her responsibility to provide the physical support but also the emotional and cognitive support so that the child experienced a smiling, pleasant, loving feeling from the mother. This to her was the essence of family, that was what it meant as her children needed to know that this tight little unit was the place that they could turn to for support and camaraderie in a special way. A way that they would not generally expect from outside.

So as we realize the importance of these two characteristics I think perhaps the blended family brings it out most forcibly where there is a realization that this unit is the place that each one can turn to for something special. For all family types, however, let us keep in mind the fact that these two characteristics tell you, you belong to a family and without doubt, in the long run it's the family ties and bonds that count.

Eleanor Wint (Ph.D.) researcher, teacher, author of Parenting Book, "I Like Me".

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