Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about working with, and advocating for, non-traditional families. For those who are not familiar with that term, let me take a moment to explain. Non-traditional families are families who do not look like the standard romantically involved man/woman with their own biological children, living under the same roof. Popular culture depicts the traditional family as the ideal, despite the fact that the majority of families living in the United States are not nuclear. Many of our institutions, such as schools, continue to function with this ideal in mind, leaving many struggling to meet their family’s needs.
Non-traditional families come in all shapes and sizes. They each have a unique structure. When they run into problems with health, school, work, or in their relationships professionals often treat the issues from a traditional family perspective. This causes many problems. The best treatment approach for a single father is very different than it would be for a stepfather. A grandmother raising her grandchildren needs a completely different set of skills than a mother of an LGBTQ youth.
One of the most important things a therapist can do when treating these families is to acknowledge the loss they have experienced. All non-traditional families have been born of loss. Loss of a spouse, a marriage, or the loss of hopes and dreams. There is a grieving that must take place. Only then can these families move forward and create the life they want.