Everyone needs a family. Whether that is the one you’re born into, married into, or even formed through unbreakable friendships, the truth is you need it.
But why is family important?
We asked 14 experts to share their thoughts on this. Below are their top insights.
Michelle Mullaley, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Co-owner, Bridges Therapy and Wellness Center
Family is the critical structure that allows development and autonomy
Family is key to our psychological, identity, relational and even physical development, and it starts with the parent-infant relationship for all of us.
The attachment relationship between parent and infant begins to set the neurological basis for self-regulation and coping with emotion and obstacles in life, for seeing oneself as a valuable and lovable person, for trust that others will soothe and meet your needs.
As you grow up, your family unit serves as the base for a sense of security and safety in the world, allowing you to take risks and explore the world in ways that allow you to grow, to succeed, to relate to others and to feel a stable sense of identity.
Family is the critical structure that allows for all of this development and autonomy.
On a more subjective level, family the potential to provide joyful and playful experiences, traditions and customs that provide meaning and a sense of history, and a source of love and support.
The nature of relationships and dynamics within the family are of course quite variable across family, giving.
family is the filter through which we experience, understand, get to know–and know ourselves through–culture
In this exact sense, there are as many unique cultures (experiences of culture) as there are families. And even within each individual family, there is a variation of cultural experience because each new member of the family is born into a unique time in the life of the family.
And though each cultural experience is novel and nuanced well beyond a general ability to access the myriad facets of the influences of culture, it is nonetheless there.
And it is constantly influencing and causing effects that can only be understood and made use of from within the ways in which each family expresses, manifests and makes use of a more general sense of culture.
For instance, a married couple will inevitably bring into their developing family their own history and expressions of their own cultural experience (ways of interacting with their family, ways of expressing love and affection, raising children and many other behaviors associated with culture).
And this is true even when the people in the couple look as if they share a number of significant cultural markers (say, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.).
In fact, as a couples’ therapist, I find it much harder to access awareness of the effects of cultural differences when people share common cultural backgrounds than when overt cultural differences interfere with assumptions we make about “commonalities.”
Therefore, the better we know, understand, accept and make room for our own cultural identities and experiences, the more conscious we will be of the influence of culture and how family can be a place of much more conscious acceptance of our own developing culture as well as the larger one(s) that we are situated within.
All told, what this means is that each family is an opportunity to unite separate and often diverse cultures, to open ourselves up to new ways of thinking and feeling and to develop new values.
Literary Agent | Publicity Manager, The Blythe Daniel Agency
Growing up I remember my parents discussing “family matters” between them and sometimes with my brother and me peering in as well.
Today I realize how much family matters. In the sense that family is important.
I knew this to be a truthful statement, but when it came down to realizing that one of your family members may not be the same from an illness, or that you may lose a family member, or even harder, you have lost a family member, you know how much family matters.
In the spring of last year, I was confronted with the deep change that a looming illness like cancer put on our family with my mom.
We rallied around her during her chemo days and after when she went into the hospital and then a rehabilitation hospital for 8 weeks. I saw other family members coming in to see their loved ones. You could see it on their face. We nodded at each other. Family matters.
I don’t know what their lives held up to that point. And our story isn’t much different from others who experience the times when you pull close and do what you can to help family. But if you look back at what helped shape you up to that point, I think you’ll see what I did.
Family breeds the relationships we invest in for the future
Our family of origin and our relationships with them shape the way we relate to others. As my mom and I share, “the most beautiful and the most volatile relationships are often between a mother and daughter“.
Why is that?
We believe it is because we are formed in our mother’s womb and we are carried by our moms to give us life (and not just life inside the womb but also for life, meaning over the years). This bond can either impact us for the better or leave us hurting pretty deeply.
The mother-daughter role isn’t the only family bond that sets us up for how we relate to others from our family roots. The father-son role and father-daughter role helps give a child and adult identity.
I think it’s interesting that when you look at how families are created, a woman will take a man’s last name, oftentimes, as her own – or a hyphenated name. That signifies she is in that family line. The man’s name functions to places his identity over the family starting at that point.
Some individuals grow up not relating to their father. Some don’t have a mother or father they relate to at all after birth or adult years, and they have created their own family with that in mind.
But what is it about family that keeps us coming back to some or part of your family? Even the difficult relationships?
We were given life and we want to return to life. We don’t like feeling estranged, lonely, or forsaken. We were created for relationship.
We were created to love and be loved. And family is the unit that most centrally expresses this.
Family is meant to protect and provide. If this hasn’t been your experience, you know the importance of establishing it for your family.
Family serves as a unit from which we gain not only a sense of who we are but it should be a place where we can learn from our failures. Learn to grow from what mistakes we’ve made.
Family includes the letters “am,” and at the end of the day, it is who I am when I am with the people I call family. That’s what matters most of all.
So if you are looking for a reason to give family another try, I encourage you to remember family is not a family without you as the “I am” in it.
You offer a place for others to see what you uniquely contribute to this most important unit. And that’s worth remembering because when you see that your family could change without you or a loved one in it, it brings it all back to this: family matters.
Co-Founder, Invested Parents
Family is to teach us how to love unconditionally
I thought I knew about family when my husband and I joined our lives through marriage. I thought I knew about family when I couldn’t hold my new-born daughter because she was losing too much blood.
I thought I knew about family when I watched my 7-year-old son in an operating room for the 13th time. I REALLY thought I knew about family sitting in the waiting room of the Blood and Cancer clinic of a children’s hospital, with my ASD nonverbal 2-year-old son.
I think I know what family is now, but I can’t wait to see what else my family will teach me about unconditional love.
I wouldn’t ask for these experiences, and yet I’ve received a greater capacity to love than I ever thought possible.
Family is to teach us how to love without conditions, without reasons, without convenience, without excuses, simply to love.
And when the day is done, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because my family is mine forever and that’s why family’s so important.
That’s why when a wry smile from a flirtatious man asks me if my wedding ring really means something… I say, “it doesn’t mean something. It means everything.”
Health and Wellness Expert, Glacier Wellness
There is no reason for anybody to have to suffer through life without a proper support system. Yet, many people are unequipped to properly take care of a friend or loved one who is going through a hard time.
One of the most important steps is opening a dialogue.
Although many people are wary to open up about their trials and tribulations, it’s crucial that they know that they always come to you for help and support.
Families are meant to be there for you even when nobody else is
They are the ones you can always turn to when life gets rough. Likewise, your family is there to give you objective advice when you need it the most. For instance, you may not be able to see how a significant other is really a bad influence while it’s clear as day to the ones closest to you.
Lawyer | Owner, Meagher Law Office, PLLC
I value my family over everything.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family that always had each other’s back through thick and thin. The family I have started with my wife is the same.
Whenever I come home from a hard day of work I know my family will be at home to give me their full support. I spend so much time with my family and I would not change it for the world.
Most of the best memories I have are all experiences I shared with my family. Through good times and bad times, I know my family has my back.
Family serves as a safety net in this world and also a compass to navigate society
Without family (through blood as well as the “family” we create for ourselves), an individual is untethered. We are focused more and more on tech and are often glued to our devices but humans still need and crave contact.
We need to feel like we belong, are understood and that we have others who care about us. Individuals lacking these basic needs don’t function well in society.
You learn love, trust, responsibility, and morals from your family. A strong family gives you confidence in life to strive further and achieve more.
Family also gives you accountability for your actions and how they affect others, making family a microcosm of your community and the world at large.
Children observe social norms from their families. They learn how to behave and what the rules are, allowing them to function better and thrive once they are “on their own.”
They understand the notion that they are a part of something larger than themselves. They understand that they have to work in tandem with other members for a collective good.
They understand that they make contributions through their behavior and achievements. So a good family provides in the end, not only the foundation but also many of the greatest rewards in life.
Andrew G. Swapp, MS ETE
Director of Wind Energy Technology, Mesalands Community College | Blogger, Invest In The Family
Family is the central most important thing we can do on this earth
Family is a support system for success and a safe haven for failure. In a functional family, you know you are loved this gives great meaning and purpose to your very existence.
A father and mother who love and care for each other are the greatest examples children can have. If they are raised with both a mother and a father in the home and they express love to each other the children grow up feeling secure and are more apt to approach life with greater confidence.
I often analogize an experience in the military to the family. A mission operation order includes all the things you will need to be successful on this mission from weather, transportation, to beans and bullets, but an operation order that does not include a method of extraction or a way to get back home leaves soldiers doubting that the mission will be a success.
This type of doubt permeates every aspect of the mission and it makes things very difficult to accomplish. When the operation includes plenty of support and an extraction method a soldier feels confident in their leadership and feels important enough to the chain of command that they are willing to risk assets to go in and get you out of a potentially terrible situation.
Now compare this to a family!
Children who grow up without a complete family are missing some part of the operation order. Confidence levels sink and missions are only partially completed if attempted at all.
A child with an intact family has support and if they get into a potentially dangerous situation often times they have an extraction plan and can call Dad and get home to safety.
A family is love – a family is support – a family is confidence – a family is fun!
I married a divorced Mom with four boys and she allowed me to have three children also. Our seven children are all successful, confident and happy.
I credit this to my wife’s constant and powerful desire to have a family and her efforts have rubbed off on me I must admit. Our family is the most important thing on earth.
I have a website that we hope one day will be read often especially by my children and grandchildren and anyone who wonders how to have a happy family.
Founder, Growth Marketing
Family is important because they will always be in your life.
Friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances come and go, but family is constant, whether you are happy about that or not.
Family has been my support system when I have needed it, especially during hard times or transitional times in my life when friends have been there more for their own enjoyment and stepped aside during harder times.
Friends are still wonderful, and I think you should cultivate a relationship with high-quality friends in your life, but not at the expense of cultivating family relationships.
It is important to have balance and not rely 100% on your friends for emotional support and friendship, while at the same time not burdening your family with every need you have.
Don’t neglect any of the relationships in your life, and try to create specific time to spend with both family and friends each month.
Personally, I have found that family is there for you during the good and the bad, and they will spend time with you without judgment or wanting something for themselves.
I think it is important to cultivate a good relationship with your family and to intentionally spend time with them since they tend to be there when you need them the most.
Author, Things That Happen By Chance
Family sets the perimeter groundwork from the very beginning of a child’s new world
It is here where basic social guidelines are learned that will shape a young child’s mind along with their survival skills.
The family structure is where positive life lessons are easily passed from one generation to the next in an attempt to continue and create your family legacy. Family is the jewel box of our heritage and loved ones.
Director of Operations, Organic Moments Photography
I believe family is everything.
It’s your people, the ones who will do anything for you. They will not judge you, turn their backs on you. They will be there every time you call them.
At least my family. I know every family isn’t like that. I have 5 children and I raised them to think the way I do.
I also own a family run wedding photography company. Not only do I love seeing my family every day but, I want to be with them at work. I enjoy their company.
They are who I want to surround myself with. Family is important because God gave you them to specifically be part of your life.
Co-Founder, Dinner Table MBA
Rascal Flatts said it best in their hit song “Life is a Highway”.
“Life’s like a road that you travel on. When there’s one day here the next day gone.”
The journey of life is amazing and it’s all about having family alongside you for its ride. When the ride is bumpy, it’s having family by your side, who can help you get through that ride.
When the ride is sweet and you’re on the top, it’s family by your side who makes that view so much better.
Sometimes “family” is recognized by birth, sometimes by marriage and other times by an unbreakable friendship that doesn’t judge, but is there for one another regardless of the circumstances.
Family teaches one another life’s lessons either as a parent at the Dinner Table or as a child, who many times teach us parents life’s true meaning.
Family is forever and that is why it’s so important.
I know families come in all shapes in sizes, but my family is truly my life team.
I have a unique relationship with each person that has evolved over the years, but the common theme is a deep desire for connection.
My siblings and I are all adults now with our own partners and families, and a consistent and genuine curiosity to continue to get to know one another has kept us close across time zones.
I think family is important because a deep sense of connection can be harder to come by in a world where many relationships are limited to exchanging likes and occasional updates – and this sense of connection, it’s everything.
Founder and CEO, Familius
The family is the fundamental unit of society.
The family is where we first learn love and how to properly interact with each other.
Our first responsibilities and jobs begin in our family and we learn that the world does not revolve around ourselves. Instead, we learn that the greatest joy comes from helping our family members.
By the time we’re an adult, we’ve learned in our family our most fundamental and important lessons about contributing to others and society.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common challenges families face?
Families face many challenges, and it’s normal to have difficulties occasionally. Here are some common challenges families face:
Communication problems: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and a lack of connection between family members.
Financial difficulties: Financial problems can lead to stress, anxiety, and tension within the family.
Health issues: Health problems can put a strain on family relationships. Caring for a sick family member can be emotionally and physically draining.
Divorce or separation: Divorce or separation can be difficult for all family members and have long-term effects on the children.
Conflict resolution: Conflict is a normal part of any relationship, but learning how to resolve conflict healthily is important. Poor conflict resolution skills can lead to ongoing issues within the family.
What role does communication play in family relationships?
Communication is critical to any relationship, especially in family relationships. Here are some reasons why communication is essential in family relationships:
Building trust: Good communication helps build trust in family relationships. When family members can communicate openly and honestly with each other, they are more likely to trust each other.
Resolving conflicts: Good communication can help resolve conflicts in family relationships. When family members can constructively express their thoughts and feelings, they are more likely to find solutions to their problems.
Strengthening relationships: Good communication can strengthen family relationships. When family members can talk openly and honestly with each other, they are more likely to feel connected and supported.
Enhancing understanding: Good communication can enhance understanding in family relationships. When family members clearly express their thoughts and feelings, they are more likely to understand each other’s perspectives.
Can family relationships be repaired?
Family relationships can be repaired but take time and effort. Here are some steps that can help repair family relationships:
Acknowledge the issue: The first step to repairing a family relationship is acknowledging the issue. This means being honest about what went wrong and taking responsibility for your part in it.
Apologize: Apologize for your part in the issue. This means taking responsibility for your actions and showing remorse for the damage that was done.
Listen: Listen to the other person’s point of view. This means you’re open to their side of the story and try to understand their feelings.
Communicate: Communicate openly and honestly. This means constructively expressing your thoughts and feelings and avoiding negative behaviors such as blaming and criticizing.
Seek help: If necessary, seek the help of a family therapist or mediator. A trained professional can help facilitate communication and work toward a resolution.
Why is maintaining family relationships important as we age?
There are many reasons why it’s important to maintain family relationships as we grow older. Here are a few reasons:
Emotional support: Family provides emotional support throughout our lives, which becomes even more important as we grow older. Family members can be there for us during difficult times and provide a sense of connection and belonging.
Shared memories: Family members share a history and a legacy. Maintaining family relationships means always creating new memories and shared experiences.
Legacy: Family gives us a sense of legacy. Our family history and traditions can be passed down from generation to generation, creating a sense of continuity and identity.
Health benefits: Maintaining family relationships can positively impact health. People with strong social ties, including family relationships, are healthier and live longer.
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