We've had some heated debates and discussions. I love it when they disagree with each other and aren't afraid to express their views. I try not to impose my views on them, and encourage them to respect each others' ideas, especially if they disagree.
This week they did it all.
We start by drawing our families. It's interesting to see if they only include those who they live with, or if the extended family makes it into the drawing. Sometimes they include pets, and we discuss whether or not pets can be family members. We go over some key terms (related by blood, by marriage, extended vs. nuclear family, co-inhabitants, etc) and then I challenge them to write a definition of "family." Most come up with something along the lines of "a group of people related by blood or marriage, who love and support each other." Some leave out the feelings aspect, others include the idea that "family" doesn't have to be related, but just people you feel strongly commited to.
I pass out notecards with different living arrangements, and they discuss whether or not each is a "family." Often they begin to contradict their own definitions, so we discuss it. They have a difficult time with one example couple I included, together for over 25 years but not married and no kids. They argue over whether or not this is a family, because they have no stamp in their passport (apparently something that happens in Ukraine when people are married), and no proof of their relationship. Some argue that a couple must have children, but then when I mention same-sex couples they change their minds.
I realize that most of these are new questions for them. No one has ever challenged their very traditional notion of family as a mother, father, and children. Many of them don't know any other model. They are shocked to learn that the majority of households in the US are comprised of a married couple with no kids (29%), followed by a person living alone (26%), only then do we have married couples with children (24%).
They also have had interesting discussions about what the "official stamp" means. They ask me why two people would live together so long without getting married. They don't know any people like this. Some seem to believe that without this stamp the relationship could end tomorrow, even in the case of the couple together for 25 years. They worry about the future of this relationship more than my 2-years-young marriage.
They shared openly and maturely, in most cases. I was impressed by their willingness to reevaluate their own definitions.
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