By Andy Greene
Family can be amazing. In an ideal situation, family is always there for you, to love and support you. That kind of unconditional love can make all the difference in our lives. Sadly, life isn’t always ideal and for a lot of people the holiday season can exacerbate those pains. Many people grew up in families that are far from perfect—and while all families are imperfect in their own ways, like many things, it’s very much a spectrum. Those people with family situations that are highly stressful, even abusive, often find themselves in the dark, feeling alone and isolated. When you don’t grow up with a proper support system, the world can seem bleak and unforgiving.
For example, children who grow up with parents who argue often or have a lot of conflict will often fail to form an attachment to their parents, which can often end up leading to insecurity and attachment issues later in their life.  Inequality also plays a role in familial relationships, as race, gender, and sexuality, especially relating to LGBTQ+ issues, are often a cause of great strife among families.  Counselor Sarah Watson offers that “we tend to fall back into our respective childhood roles when we are with our families, and that can create some serious doubt with individuals. Remember, you are not your 12-year-old self, and you are important.” 
Which is exactly right—as adults we have agency and options. For starters, for whatever holidays you celebrate this season, you don’t have to do it with other people. You may decide to spend the holidays alone, which when combined with self-love and self-care can be deeply rewarding. If you do want to spend time with your biological family, you can prepare yourself for relating to them in the healthiest ways possible. Or if you want to be around people, but don’t want to or can’t be with your given family, you can spend time with your chosen family. This may mean that you decide to spend the holidays with friends, or with other people who are the ones in your life who most support and love you. We all have options!
And we’re lucky that we live in a connected age. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to find and make friends with anyone! There are a great deal of social media platforms that you can use to find people, from locally to internationally, to befriend! I should note, however, that you don’t want to force friendships on anybody – it should happen naturally, and over time. I often made friendships through common interests such as art or favorite tv shows. There are many places you can develop friendships more traditionally, of course—at school, out and about, perhaps even at your job.
However, while making friends is one thing, forming deep, familial-like connections is another. It takes time, energy, and a lot of work from both sides. It can be a slow process, but eventually, you may just find your own group of close friends that you can consider a family. If you’re not there yet, the holidays could be a great time to strengthen a bond you have with a friend or friends who you’d like to be closer to. Use the time as an opportunity to spend quality time with someone or people who treat you well and who you’d like to know better.
And we’re lucky that we live in a connected age. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to find and make friends with anyone! There are a great deal of social media platforms that you can use to find people, from locally to internationally, to befriend! I should note, however, that you don’t want to force friendships on anybody – it should happen naturally, and over time. I often made friendships through common interests such as art or favorite tv shows. There are many places you can develop friendships more traditionally, of course—at school, out and about, perhaps even at your job. However, while
I had my own experience making a family of sorts—when the one that I grew up in didn’t accept me for who I was. It was an unhealthy and toxic situation—and thanks to the amazing group of close friends that I made, I was able to escape it safely and move on with my life. My friends were there for me when my biological family wasn’t—they stuck with me through thick and thin. I don’t even know where I would be now without them. If I was feeling lonely, they would always be there. When I was struggling with my mental health, they would point me towards resources and give me advice on what to do. That’s what a true family does, and I personally believe that’s all that family is—a group of people, however small, who love and support each other no matter what. I’m now so much happier, healthier, and more confident than ever! So, this holiday season, I advise you to be thankful for your friends, your family, and everyone who’s ever been there to support you.