One key to an emotionally healthy life is having the backing of a strong, supportive family.
A strong family may be as small as two people or as large as a kinship network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The size of the family, indeed the composition of the family, does not matter as much as the feeling of belonging and the sense of sustenance that emerges from living with stable familial support. People seem to do better in life when they have the feeling of belonging to something larger, and stronger, than they are individually. A familial network diminishes the uncertainties that derive from the stresses of everyday living.
The family has undergone many changes over recent decades, due mainly to major social and cultural upheavals. When life was mainly agriculturally-based or when immigrants came to a new land, the traditional family was able to thrive. We looked to our kin for support and they were there for us. The decades since the middle of the twentieth century have seen a steady unraveling of this bygone ideal. It is difficult to describe precisely what caused this change. It may have been such factors as government programs (the government, rather than children, could take care of people when they grew old). Or the automobile and modern roads (people were no longer confined to one location any longer – family members could move away). Or was it television? Computers and electronic data transmission? Improved communication technology? The high divorce rate? What we do know is that families today find it more difficult, due to competing demands from the larger world, to spend time together, to feel committed to each other, to communicate with each other, to share spiritual values, and to cope with crises together. Some families, however, seem to have overcome these threats to a strong and thriving family life.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT