What Makes Your ‘Modern Family’ Strong?

Our world is changing. So are families. In many ways, it doesn’t matter how families are created but how family members interact and thrive.

Years ago, we had a narrow view of what a family should look like: a mom, a dad, two kids, a house, and a pet. Today, we have countless ways that families are created, and research shows that what makes a strong family isn’t the way the family was created—but how the family thrives.

In a recent Pew Research Center study, the percentage of Americans sees the following as families:

  • Married couples with children 99%
  • Married couples without children 88%
  • Single parent with children 86%
  • Unmarried couples with children 80%
  • Same-sex couples with children 63%
  • Same-sex couples without children 45%
  • Unmarried couples without children 43%
  • I know a lot of families—healthy families—who don’t fit the narrow view of “traditional” families. My kids have friends who have four parents (two biological parents who divorced and then remarried). One of my child’s friends was a test-tube baby born to two same-sex parents. We know countless single-parent families, grandparents raising kids, and multi-generational families living together. We have friends who had a drug addict (who wasn’t related to them) sign over parental rights to them, and they raised that child as their own. Another family we know has three kids: all adopted from different countries: China, India, and Colombia.

    One of my family’s favorite TV shows right now is Modern Family. In many ways, this comedy reflects how families are changing. The show focuses on three families—a stereotypical one: a mom, a dad, and three kids; a blended one: two dads with an adopted Vietnamese child; and a blended one: an older man married to a younger, divorced Colombian woman with a child from her first marriage. All three families deal with everyday issues, and are trying to build strong families. They try to communicate and show their love and affection toward each other amidst their colorful—often clashing—personalities. They also deal with real issues. The gay dads encounter discrimination, the mom from Colombia runs into awkward cultural and language-related situations, and the stereotypical family struggles with work-family balance while parenting three kids with three very different personalities. They make mistakes, but they keep working to overcome their mistakes. Throughout each episode, you laugh and laugh, but you’re also touched. These families show what it means to be family, and that’s what matters most.

    What makes your “modern family” strong? Here’s an interesting bit of research for you to consider: Search Institute researchers recently identified a number of characteristics of a strong family. Here are some of the defining characteristics from the study:

  • They have support and encouragement from people around them.
  • They have a strong relationship with a partner or spouse.
  • They parent their kids in effective, successful ways.
  • They know their challenges and work to overcome them.
  • They find resources and people who help them be better parents.
  • How does your family perform one (or all of the actions above) to thrive? _________________________________________________________________________ Sources: 1. Pew Research Center, The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, November 18, 2010). 2. Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Peter C. Scales, Jolene L. Roehlkepartain, Carmelita Gallo, and Stacey P. Rude, Building Strong Families (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2002). 3. Caring Relationships, Parentfurther.

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