How sitcoms portray family has shifted – from the criticism of “Murphy Brown” in 1992 to the more recent sitcom: “Modern Family” which includes a gay couple, blended family and the traditional heterosexual family.  These are but two examples which mirror the ways in which the realities of family have also shifted.

Did you know?

According to the 2016 Canadian census:

  • While 98.6% of children in Canada live with at least one biological or adoptive parent:
    • 3% live with two biological or adoptive parents;
    • 1% live with one biological or adoptive parent and one step-parent;
    • 2% live in a lone parent family
  • 30% of dads claimed or intended to take parental leave in 2015
  • 9% of all couples in Canada are same-sex couples
    • 9% are male couples
    • 1% are female couples
    • 1 in 8 same sex couples had children living with them
  • 21.3% of couples living together in Canada are in common law unions

It’s Complicated

In an effort to accommodate these variations, we are beginning to see forms which no longer ask for Mom’s name and Dad’s name.  Instead, parent 1 and parent 2 or simply ‘guardian’ is becoming more the norm.  This creates space from which families that are not headed by heterosexual, married couples can still be seen and treated as valid.

In fact, it is entirely possible that children today are familiar with at least a few of the many different forms of family simply because there are friends and classmates who are outside the old norm.  Generation X parents are somewhat familiar with this shift as we witnessed a number of divorced, blended and single parent families during our tenure as students.  Now there are a few other options in the mix. Still, the challenge remains: how do we ensure that all children feel comfortable talking about their families at school and elsewhere?

Family Tree

When confronted with families that are not headed by a heterosexual, married couple, how do we respond?  Are there family types which prompt an awkward reaction by us or others?  Are we comfortable talking about the various possibilities within our families?  What would it take to ensure that all people could feel valid and welcome in our homes, our schools, and our communities?

To quote from Murphy Brown: “Whether by choice or by circumstance, families come in all shapes and sizes, and ultimately what really defines a family is commitment, caring and love.”

Do you agree?  How would you define family?  What do you think is important for ensuring that all types of families feel valid and welcome?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/