Ever wonder what it would be like to have a “normal” family?
A family that’s in each other’s lives?
A family that loves without conditions?
A family that isn’t perpetually engaged in psychological warfare?
Yep. Me too.
I wonder what it would be like to pick up the phone and casually call one of my brothers.
I wonder what it would be like to be able to ask my mom for advice or take my dad to a football game just because.
These are things that a normal family does but unfortunately – thanks to years of drugs, alcohol, violence, chaos and abuse – these things don’t happen in my family.
And to be totally honest with you, especially as the holiday season gets going, wondering what it would be like to have a normal family hurts. The wondering sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m on the outside looking in on life.
If you can relate, I’m sharing 3 ideas that I hope will help clear up the confusion and ease the frustration that can show up whether you’re,
- Trying to figure out what a normal family looks like
- Wondering what having a normal family would be like
- Wanting to create a normal family of your own
After you’re done reading, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a normal family? Or if you’ve been able to create a normal family, how did you do it?
Share your insights and thoughts with me in the comment section.
Look. If you take anything away from today’s post I want it to be the realization that you’re not alone.
For my group-study, online course for Adult Children Of Alcoholics called ACOA 101, I surveyed hundreds of ACOAs to discover their biggest challenges. And guess what one of the top 5 challenges was…
Not knowing/wondering what a normal family looks like.
So believe me when I tell you, you’re not alone in this. And if you’d like to learn more about being an ACOA while connecting with a supportive community of like-minded ACOAs that get it, then –
I gotta tell you, a handful of awesome ACOAs just finished taking ACOA 101 and they are raving about it!
Check out what my lovely student Vicky has to say about ACOA 101 below.
ACOA 101 Was A Revelation To Me!
Previously I struggled with low self esteem; inability to trust in relationships; an inability to trust myself and my feelings and how to verbalise what I really wanted.
Dawn’s course has shown me WHY I have these issues and it has helped me to put them into context. With this awareness has come a growing understanding of myself and my reactions.
I am accepting myself more every day; I am able to extract what are ‘trigger’ reactions and a hangover from my childhood and I’m able to work through these reactions and see my coping mechanisms for what they are.
I will always be an ACOA, but that’s ok with me, because I now have the tools to address the ways in which this has been holding me back. Thank you Dawn!
Vicky R, United Kingdom
Until Next Tuesday,
P.S. If you have a family member, friend or coworker that’s struggling with this idea of having a normal family, help them out by sharing this post with them.
#1 If You Have No Clue What A Normal Family Looks Like -Then Stop Talking About Normal
Author Jodi Picoult said, I personally subscribe to the belief that normal is just a setting on the dryer. And I couldn’t agree with her more.
That’s why when it comes to family, I think we’d be better off if we switched out the word normal for healthy.
I’ve met many families that look really good on paper but as I got to know those families I found pockets of dysfunction that definitely would not qualify as normal.
Take the Menendez family for example. They appeared to be normal, perhaps even perfect, but after brothers Lyle and Erik were sentenced to life without parole in the 90’s for killing their parents (Jose and Kitty) the world learned that they were clearly not very healthy (or normal).
On the flip side take the world’s strongest family, the Best Family who were featured on TLC’s show My Crazy Obsession.
This family of four trains their bodies up to 240 hours a week. And at the time the show was released in 2013, the youngest daughter Jessica, who was only 5 years old at the time, could lift 100 pounds. You can check out a short clip from the episode, right here.
Now, for the average family, the Best family may not be normal but are they healthy? And when I say healthy I’m not referring to the physical but rather how they interact and stand as a family.
For ACOA’s – whether we are reconciling the fact that we don’t know what a normal family looks like or if we have a family of our own and we’re trying to make it normal, I think it’s more productive to focus on what’s healthy instead.
Instead of asking, is my family normal? Why not ask is it healthy?
#2 If You Wan’t To Stop Feeling Bad About The Family You Never Had – Take A Facebook Break
It happens to all of us. You login to Facebook and before you know it you’ve fallin into a funk because everyone else’s life, as it rolls by in your news feed, appears to look a whole hell of a lot better than yours.
That feeling has a little something to do with this thing called image crafting – “the act of carefully and deliberately constructing one’s social media content to control the way others view their lives.”
For ACOAs, or really anyone with a less than stellar family, it can be so easy to start playing the comparison game when we see pictures of other other families looking so perfect, loving and normal in our feeds.
We can start to feel inadequate. And we can be led to believe that we have somehow failed or disappointed our own families because we know that our family doesn’t look like that.
But here’s the deal. No family is that perfect and regardless of how great other families may look in your feed, I promise you that they have problems. I promise you that those images do not represent the whole story.
I’ve seen it myself with the few family members I am friends with on Facebook. They may post and gloat about how great their relationships are but I know and have witnessed different.
If you find that Facebook, or any social media platform you use, consistently puts you in a funk, or triggers painful memories about your family and all that your family will never be it may be time to take a break.
An experiment by the Happiness Research Institute found that people who gave up Facebook for a week reported higher levels of satisfaction then those who stayed glued to their news feeds. Just something to think about.
#3 If You Want To Give Your Family The Family You Never Had – Focus On What’s Free
In ACOA 101 we lay out and discuss the differences between an alcoholic or dysfunctional family and a healthy, functioning family.
Using Wayne Kritsberg’s book, The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome, we walk through a list of characteristics that separate the two and guess what…they’re all free.
Here’s what I mean.
If you want to give your family the family you never had then focus on being dependable, reliable and consistent. Keep a sense of humor. Listen to each other. Talk about what’s bugging you and give your family the space and respect to do the same.
These are just a handful of things that make up the core of a healthy family. And each one you can focus on and cultivate for free.
And not only are these things free but as Robert Brault says,
The best things in life are not only free, but the line is shorter.