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International Day of Families celebrates diverse family structures

The annual celebration of the International Day of Families takes place May 15.

The holiday, proclaimed by the General Assembly of United Nations in 1993, reflects the importance of family to the international community. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them.

Family structures around the world have transformed greatly, but the UN still recognizes family as the basic unit of society.

An example of change in family structure is how families, though geographically separated, still keep in touch. Freshman Kyle Chen’s family is scattered across the globe, as his parents and sister live in the United States, but his extended family lives in China. Since his sister is in college, he spends the most time with his mother and father.

“My sister usually comes back from college on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Chen said. “We don’t do special traditions, but we stay together and go to eat together.”

Sophomore Quinn Tyler’s family is extensive but very close-knit. She has nine older siblings in all – two fully biologically related siblings, five step-siblings and two adopted siblings. Tyler said one of the reasons they are so close is because of her father’s death when she was young.

“[We] used what we went through as a kid losing our father as a bonding experience which is a weird way to put it, but going through adversity kind of made us need to rely on each other more for strength,” Tyler said. “And through that, we created a very strong family that just loves each other a lot.”Quinn Tyler

Adopted children also make up part of sophomore Jocelyn Ash’s family. In fact, all six of her siblings are adopted.

“My mother and father could never have children so they adopted all of us, and we all come from different backgrounds,” Ash said. “I’m the only one who’s Chinese, but my sister is American, and the rest of my siblings are mixed. It’s really cool because some of them are half brown, half white, and some of them are half Latino, half black, so there’s a lot of variety.”

The International Day of Families recognizes that family structure has changed drastically during the past few decades due to evolving global demographic trends. Because of this, what family structure looks like has changed.

“There are so many types of families that there shouldn’t be any restrictions on who you consider to be your family,” Tyler said. “I know growing up we didn’t have a dad in the house that much, so a lot of my parental figures weren’t actually my parents. They were my older siblings who kind of stepped in to help raise me. So I think a big part of who is in your family is just the people who are willing to help you out.”

Although her family is large and not all biologically related, some of Tyler’s favorite experiences have been with all her siblings. One of her best memories with them was during a road trip to their beach house two years after her dad passed. It was the first time her mother took all of the kids on vacation by herself.

“There was absolutely no room when we drove seventeen hours to the beach house,” Tyler said. “The entire time we were just arguing and hating each other so much because it’s nine people in a car, it’s not fun. When we finally got there, we just had all come closer together as a family, and really learned to spend more time together, and I think that’s when me and my siblings got so close.”

What are some experiences you’ve had with your family? Leave a comment below!

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