The Importance Of Family Love For Emotional Well-Being
Updated November 29, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
The importance of family love for emotional wellbeing cannot be underestimated. The quality of family love experienced by a person affects them all the way from infancy through adolescence into adulthood. Love, as it occurs in the context of family, is unlike any other. Your family members are the people who you surround yourself with the most, who gives your life meaning, and who you would do anything for. They're the people that you can't live without. Who you turn to when something good or bad happens.
Of course, this is painting a perfect-sounding picture when no family is perfect. You may have a strained or negative relationship with your blood family, or not have any living family that you know of, but that does not mean you can never experience positive family love. You may have past experiences where you received a lot of healthy family love but don't right now. If not, remember that you can always choose who your family is (at least when you're old enough to understand and make that choice).
Evidence That Family Love Is Important For Emotional Well-Being
Research and anecdotal evidence show that family love can have a big impact on our emotional wellbeing. That impact can be either positive or negative, and effects of different things like our emotions and behaviors.
A Harvard longitudinal study conducted by Waldinger, R.J. & Schulz, M.S. (2016) on a sample of 81 men found that, "warmer relationships with parents in childhood predict greater security of attachment to intimate partners in late life, and that this link is mediated in part by the degree to which individuals in midlife rely on emotion-regulatory styles that facilitate or inhibit close relationship connections." These findings highlight how childhood environment can impact individuals even as adults.
Just like a nurturing, loving and supportive family environment contribute to healthy emotions and behaviors, the opposite is also true. For example, many children who grow up in abusive households and who witness domestic violence firsthand end up modeling the same behavior in their family relationships when they are older. Both examples show how the quality of family love that we are exposed to from a young age can have far-reaching consequences.
Other evidence, like the study by Bond, L., Patton, G., Glover, S. et al. (2004), show how other influences like a school-based intervention, can have a positive impact on emotional wellbeing. This just goes to show that your family may help or harm your emotional wellbeing, but they aren't the whole story. Other factors can also impact and influence your emotional wellbeing, meaning things can change.
Navigating Troubles With Family Love To Improve Emotional Well-Being
People who grow up exposed to appropriate amounts of positive family love are lucky. These individuals may suffer from fewer problems with emotional wellbeing as they age. If you grew up in a situation where family love was missing or skewed, or you are currently experiencing issues with a family that is affecting your emotional well-being, don't worry. Either way, there are a few things that you can do to improve this situation:
Sometimes it's unfortunate that people have no control over what family they are born into. If you have been dealt a bad hand, there is not much you can do to change it. For many years, you may be stuck suffering the consequences if your family is not very loving, or (even worse) abusive. These types of situations can leave long-lasting scars, including things like trust issues, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and difficulty getting close to people when you are older.
Counseling can help you understand and start to heal though issues that you may be dealing with because of family problems or trauma. These things can be in the past or ongoing. One positive thing is that these days it's easier than ever to find counseling services that are built to suit your needs. Traditional, in-person counseling is still an option if you prefer to see a professional face-to-face, but if you are waitlisted or seeking an alternative counseling method, there are some great services out there.
One convenient alternative that has been around for a few years is online counseling. Online counseling services are the perfect solution if you live in a rural area or don't have time to keep regular appointments in person. Services like Regain offer relationship counseling to couples and individuals. Regain, and other services like it are affordable and convenient. You can connect with a trained professional from the comfort of your own home and even while you're traveling or on-the-go.
- Choose Your Family
Another way that you can cope with lack of family love or start to heal from an unhealthy family dynamic is by choosing your own family instead. This can be hard to do when you are younger and still live with your parents, but as adults, we have the power to choose to end unhealthy family relationships. We can also choose new, honorary family members that make us feel loved and respected. Have you ever had a close friend that was like the brother or sister you always wished you had?
To bring in the type of family love you desire in life, start by reaching out to the people you trust and feel close to for support. These people might be friends, co-workers, or people who you meet randomly and have a close connection with. These relationships may start out as friendships, but over time friends can become close like family. For example, an older co-worker might become a bit of a parental figure, because they have qualities you wish your parents had when you were young.
- Put Yourself First
Ideally, one or both the suggestions above can be useful if you are struggling with your emotional wellbeing because of lack of family love. If counseling or choosing your own family doesn't seem like viable options due to lack of finances or people who you consider close like family, don't give up. Remember that self-love and self-expression are also important factors in your emotional wellbeing. Sometimes taking your emotional well-being into your own hands can be just as empowering.
Even though it can be hard at times, it's important that you learn to recognize your self-worth. If you are living with a family that doesn't treat you with love and respect, you don't need to take it. You should feel comfortable standing up for yourself and not take their actions or words to heart. If you are in an abusive relationship, you can contact the national domestic violence hotline at 1−800−799−7233. The way that your family treats you, especially when negative, does not reflect your worth.
Don't be afraid to set boundaries around unhealthy family relationships, if you have that option. Refuse to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. Take your emotional well-being into your own hands by taking good care of yourself physically, doing the things that make you happy, and developing a tough exterior that cannot be penetrated by people who don't treat you the way that you deserve to be treated. By believing that you deserve better you will start to bring better into your life.
Family love is extremely important when it comes to a person's emotional well-being. Growing up in a loving and supportive family can help you develop into an emotionally-healthy teen and adult, whereas a lack of family love or growing up in an unhealthy family environment can negatively impact your emotional well-being in the long term. Just know that whatever happens in your family life, you can always change your situation for the better.
If you grew up with a lack of family love or are having family problems, there are several things that you can do to improve and protect your emotional wellbeing. A few of these things include seeing a counselor either online or in person, choosing your own family, and putting yourself first instead of letting other people get you down. It's true that our family shapes us, but if you were dealt a bad hand, it doesn't mean that you can't take things into your own hands and create the change you deserve.
A few final things to keep in mind as you embark on this journey: For one thing, be patient. Healing emotional scars takes time, and there will be highs and lows along the way. Also, don't give up. Even when you have setbacks like you let a family member walk all over you or let negative ways of thinking get to you, remember that you are making progress just by trying. Finally, be self-aware. Take note of what things work for you and what doesn't, since all of us are different.
We all cope differently when we are struggling with our emotional wellbeing, and that's okay. If you try one of these methods, like counseling or setting boundaries, and it doesn't work for you, move on to the next thing until something does work. If you are a parent, remember that showing healthy family love to your children can make a big difference in their current and future emotional well-being. If you lacked family love growing up, make a promise not to continue the cycle with your kids.