We put so much attention and action into family gatherings we’d be remiss not to acknowledge what a family actually is. What does it mean? Who is involved? How do we get one? Are there rules to this “family thing?” We all need to examine these questions as responsible counselors and caregivers. Understand that family is choice. To understand that we have to understand what it means to be human and how we make choices.
What Does it Mean to be Human?
Having the ability to develop a sense of self through familial interaction, and establish values is what distinguishes humans from other organisms. Family systems theorists believe that a “healthy” human being is defined as a person having enough confidence to employ one’s self-awareness to initiate social interaction with others. Having the drive and desire to be social and close to others is what makes us human. A healthy human being develops their sense of self, what role they play in this life through feedback we get through interacting with others.
How do Humans Make Choices?
A common metaphor Marriage and Family therapists relate to is “family is a government.” Viewing the family as a government allows a person to realize your power to apply choices to your life both internally and externally. I’ll explain further…choice and free will are based on human behavior and basic economics. It’s simple ~ Humans seek to maximize benefits and minimize costs. These can be both tangible and monetary, however, they are usually intangible and social-emotional gains and losses we are basing our choices on. Here's where we form our individual idea of a family…
Can Humans Choose Their Own Family?
I believe the concept 'families of choice' already resonates with many of our readers. This term is intended to capture the commitment of chosen, rather than fixed, relationships and ties of intimacy, care, and support. This refers to person(s) or group of people you see as significant in your life. It may include none, all, or some members of your family of origin. In addition, it may include individuals such as significant others, domestic partners, friends, and coworkers.
Understanding the above two principles about being human and making choices it’s easy to understand how desirable it might be to choose your family. How necessary and responsible it is for us, as counselors and caregivers, to accept that the presence of a real family in anyone’s life exists in individual choice and preference.
*On the above note…we need to give due credit to the LBGTQ+ community for extensive research and raising awareness of the reality of families of choice.*