The Importance of Family Identity
Family identity. What is it, do we want it and how do we get it? Good questions. First of all, what is family identity? It’s a new, catchy phrase to describe how we see ourselves as a family. Some families go so far as to formalize a motto, set goals and write purpose statement for their family but for most of its more of an informal occurrence. Many variables can go into forming your identity as a family: faith, values, traditions, activities and interests.
A big part of our family identity revolved around animals. While other families were out going to soccer games, football games or music recitals, my daughters and I were fostering cats. We worked with a local rescue organization that rescued cats and dogs and we fostered them in our home until a home was found for them. My oldest daughter had been an animal person from the beginning, a mangled version of “kitty kat” being her first word at the age of ten months followed by a declaration of wanting to be a Veterinarian at the age of two. My other daughter also loved animals so it became natural that we started identifying ourselves as an “animal family”.
Over the years, we fostered 82 cats and a couple dogs for the rescue group and the shelter. We had pets that included mice, ferrets and cats. In line with their love for animals, my daughters made decisions to become vegetarians and remain loyal to that commitment many years later.
Creating a family identity can be an important part of bonding, especially for a blended family. The beginning of family identity is simply getting to know each other by setting time aside on a regular basis to talk about likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams for the future and what’s going on in our lives. Dinner can be a good time for that or for busy families it might be necessary to set aside one night a week as family night.
Traditions are an integral part of developing family identity. They can be everyday simple things such as the mealtime prayer, the tuck in story and song or the Sunday family dinner. They can also be more elaborate traditions like birthday celebrations or an annual vacation spot. For our family, it’s the second generation of tacos being the traditional birthday meal. We pull out the Lazy Susan I inherited from my parents and have a feast of Mexican food. It’s simple and inexpensive but we’ve created an atmosphere around it that says it’s a special part of our family experience. What the tradition is doesn’t matter as much as the bond the ritual creates amongst family members.
Family identity is a good thing. It’s what makes a family feel connected. It says we’re a team and we are bonded by goals, shared values, interests and most importantly- love!