If you Google "Family Pictures", lots of beautiful images pop up. The families are smiling, there are usually 2 or 3 children in them (and usually one boy and one girl). Everyone is dressed in lovely bright colors-at least one person is wearing a polo shirt. And another thing to notice is that the families tend to be homogeneous. This is not to say that they are all White-in fact, the first family that popped up when I Googled this was Asian-but they tend to all be the same race. They also tend to be one daddy and one mommy. Everyone once in awhile a grandparent, or two, is thrown in there (not literally, but you get the idea) and they are also the same race as the rest of the family. I scrolled down for so long, I gave up before I found another interracial couple (except for Modern Family stills), a gay couple (except for Modern Family promos), or any other type of family.
This made me realize something. First of all, thank goodness for Modern Family! Their portrayal of families is truly fantastic. I think that they help expand the idea of what constitutes a family-at least according to Google. But more importantly, is this really the only way that we think of families nowadays? There are so many different types of families today and I think it's important that we celebrate them all. Family is not defined by a husband and wife-not by a man and a woman for that matter. Family, in my opinion, is defined by love and caring. I get asked sometimes what the difference between family and friends are. My answer is always that family is permenant. So think about the people in your life who are permanant; the people who are not going away. Those are your family.
I'd love to have you all brainstorm some non-traditional families that you can think of. I will name a few to get people started, but I know that I will fall short of thinking of them all. Then talk to your child(ren) about family and what it really means. And allow your child to come up with some examples of non-traditional families that they know of that fit into the following categories or others that you may think of. It is a great way to help them expand their thinking and challenge the traditional.
Please comment below with additional suggestions. This is clearly not an exhaustive list, but wouldn't it be great if we could generate an enormously long list? One that really challenges those Google photos and allows people to define family in the way that they see fit. I'm looking forward to seeing your responses!
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Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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