What is a Chosen Family?
A Chosen Family is simply that- members of your family that
are chosen rather than determined by law or blood. Chosen families are also
called found families. The definition of family has rapidly changed and
expanded over the last century. Originally designating relationships with
people such as spouses, children, and parents; the term has broadened as
different types of relationships are cultivated.
Family can extend far beyond the constraints of DNA and biology. As society diversifies beyond cis-het norms, what makes up a ‘family’ becomes a diverse picture as well. With fewer people choosing to get married or have children, there is more of a need for something beyond the nuclear unit. Even though they are not blood relatives, people that you consider to be family are found (or chosen) family.
We come across people who fit into our lives better than we could have ever imagined throughout our lifetime. They have the same interests, tastes, and values. They can brighten your day just with their energy and presence. Chosen family members make your family life feel complete.
Creating Traditions with Your Chosen Family
Much like you would with a traditional family, it is common to form traditions with your chosen family. These traditions may be a scheduled weekly activity, like Game Nights on Fridays. They may also be annual celebrations like Pride or holiday traditions such as Friendsgiving. Celebrating these traditions may simply consist of spending them together, or you may include specified details that make the tradition feel personalized to the group.
Navigating Relationships with Your Blood Family from a Chosen Family
Celebrating milestones and holidays with your chosen family can be rocky situations to navigate. Your blood relatives may expect you to take part in their celebrations and traditions. Excuses may come easier if there is distance between you and your blood family. When you live close, you may feel unnecessary guilt when pressured by blood relatives to ‘choose’ between families. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but they can help you preserve your mental health. Boundaries are necessary to preserve relationships that are important to you. Remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. You deserve to be around people that make you feel comfortable.
Reasons You May Gravitate Towards a Chosen Family
Some people just ‘get it.’ They get you and the things that
are important to you. Chosen families are built on foundations of love,
understanding, and acceptance. You may feel like you can truly be yourself
around these people. It makes sense that this positive environment would be
more appealing than a less welcoming one with your biological or legal family.
Chosen families are also often formed around people with similar backgrounds or values. Some chosen family members have overcome or survived similar obstacles in their pasts. These can be peers of your own age or different aged people that fill roles usually taken by blood family members.
Types of Chosen Families
Chosen families are common in groups of young people that are separated from their blood families. This physical separation may occur for a variety of reasons. The person may have chosen the separation, such as moving away or setting post-trauma boundaries. The person may be separated for a reason they didn’t choose as well, such as their family passing away.
Often nicknamed “lost family” after the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, these groups of young people may all be around the same age or have adoptive parental figures. In larger cities, these lost families will often hold potlucks on major holidays and call them “Orphan Thanksgiving” or “Orphan Christmas.”
Just as young people lose their birth families, elderly ones lose family as well. Losing friends, parents, partners, and sometimes even children is just a part of growing old. Excess free time due to retirement paired with assisted living situations is the perfect combination for the elderly to form chosen families later in life.
Chosen families are deeper than friendships. These bonds create a nurturing environment that is vital to our survival as human beings. This type of environment is incredibly important to the LGBTQ+ community. Almost half of blood families reject and cast out queer family members. Statistically, data shows this rejection often leads to homelessness and suicide. Being able to find a chosen family helps empower LGBTQ+ youth.
Families often share similar values and lifestyles. These bonds can form chosen families in military services, amongst professional athletes, and entertainers. It’s not just professions that can spawn this type of chosen family either- shared interests bring together niche families all over the world. Special interests bring together many single people that feel fulfilled by the relationships they form during shared activities or participating in fandoms.
Holding Onto Connection
People need people. Whether a lot or only a little, that
connection is necessary for all of us, which means that the existence of chosen
families is anything but a mystery. Wherever you find your chosen family
members, they are to be treasured for how much they can enrich your life.
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