“Are we still a family?” after a divorce or family separation? It’s a question that many people ask after going through a process that often seems to rip apart everything that family means to us.
At Two Wishes, though, we have a rather different – and perhaps more holistic and future-proof – vision of “family” than the usual parent-focused definitions (“a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit” Oxford Languages) or more bureaucratic definitions (“a family is a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption who live together” HRSA).
For us at Two Wishes, family is:
“an ever-changing network of caring and loving relationships with a child at its core”.
It’s a definition based, in some ways, on the fundamental importance of a child’s attachment to caregivers and the usually reciprocal attachment of those caregivers to a child. That, to us, is the essence of family.
So, for us, the answer to the question of whether you’re still a family after divorce or “separation” is simple. Yes! Families are, by definition, ever-changing in all sorts of ways. And families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The key, though, to any family is a child and the relationships that support that child. That might mean a mother and a father along with their extended families. It might mean a grandparent, carer or friend. It might even include non-human companions.
So, when couples split up, their families may change, but they are still families nonetheless. If handled well, the network of caring relationships experienced by a child may actually become even larger, stronger and more diverse after a divorce. And it may contribute positively to the development of a child’s resilience and future wellbeing.
It’s a theme that’s also explored in Solo Parent Magazine‘s podcast: Are Divorced Parents Still a Family? As Joly Herman says: “No matter if you’re in two houses or one, the experts at Solo Parent Magazine would say that all families are families, no matter what shape our families look like.”