Marriage and Family — 02 December 2013

The magical bond within families

Having a good family, fine education, and close friends have been documented to contribute to one’s healthy and happy maturation and future success. Why has the family of origin and the extended family been so important to us throughout our lives beyond our maturation?

When adults talk about their families, they do so with pleasure or distress, both of which demonstrate their strong emotional attachment to having a functional and loving connection to their relatives throughout their lives. Why is a healthy, connected and loving family so important to all beings?

Psychologist and author Mary Pipher, who studied the meaning of family connections, describes families as “our oldest and most precious institution.” The title of one of her books “The shelter of each other” conveys basic elements of family benefits including safety, refuge, community and protection to all their members and strengthening them communally and individually.

Good parenting and family connectedness enrich us in achieving our higher potential while being guided, embraced and supported by those who believe in us and cheer us on. Those who have not been blessed with a connected and harmoniously bonded family may have greater challenges in determining their own self-definition, values, interpersonal skills, career path and their gifts of becoming good partners.

Dr. Sean Brotherson of North Dakota State University writes, “Family connections, the relationships that link us to one another as siblings, parents, children, spouses, or grandparents are at the heart of the family experience. Families come in a variety of forms, but all families consist of relationships among different persons who care for and are committed to each other.”

Perhaps being cared for, protected and safer through the association to a larger, committed group enables each member to more ably survive and thrive.

A crisis, tragedy, illness or loss often unites families, even those who are not intimately connected. The unification and support during stressful times assures one’s worthiness, importance and lovability as it highlights the merits of membership in the extended family.

Some families delight in their legend about the nature and valor of their “clan”. Those who may not have the same familial pride may still feel embolden by their association with their relatives and the power of connection to a larger group.

Many individuals seek psychotherapy to sort out their marital and/or family relationships. We all seek harmony, acceptance, good intentions and the love of all natural and added members of our “clan” to feel better about ourselves and safer in their midst.

Being a member of an extended family also enriches us by assigning us the responsibility of being of help to others in times of need. Giving and receiving attention and support enables us to feel individually valued and strengthens us and as a group.

Be an effective family member:

  • Accept the value of family relationships beyond maturation.
  • Understand the benefits and responsibilities of being a good family member.
  • Become a unifier and peacemaker in your extended family, when needed.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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