You have probably heard of the term ‘broken family’ or ‘broken home.’
You may even use it to describe a family that has been impacted by divorce or separation.
Whatever way you resonate with the term ‘broken family’, it’s time we talk about what this really means and how it can make somebody feel.
Is ‘broken’ really the right term to be using?
I would argue, no, it is not.
What Does A Broken Family Really Mean?
When somebody describes a broken family, they are usually referring to a family that no longer lives together in unison due to separation.
You’re probably thinking, ‘well yeah, that’s true, what’s wrong with that?’
In return, I would ask, is this all that it means? Well, not to a kid with two homes.
When you hear the term broken family, what do you think of?
I instantly think of words such as dysfunctional, fractured, unconventional.
Now, how do you feel when you think of a broken family?
I feel sad, hurt and even guilty.
This wasn’t my choice, so why am I being placed in the ‘broken’ category?
To me, the word broken implies that something needs fixing.
That it is faulty, no longer worthy.
So, the definition of a ‘broken home’ may be fact.
However, is it really how we should be describing a kid’s family to them? No.
Are there better ways to describe a separated family? Absolutely. I just did!
When somebody identifies you as a kid from a broken home, you probably get a sense of reinforcement.
Reinforcement of the fact that you already felt broken, disjointed or dysfunctional in a way because your parents are no longer together.
So, your parents made a decision to separate and as such you’re placed into the ‘broken’ category.
You’re probably thinking ‘how is that fair?!’
I’m here to tell you it’s not.
Feeling a certain way because of your parents’ choices can sometimes be inevitable.
Here, it is important to remember that your parents’ choices are not your responsibility.
Therefore, you should not feel guilty or ashamed when somebody identifies you as a kid from a broken home.
Instead, remember that you are your own person who will not be defined by decisions made by others.
You are not broken.
Growing up, I have always found comfort in the fact that regardless of my situation, my family will always be my family.
My mum will always be my mum and my dad always my dad, no matter what.
Divorced, separated, apart, whatever your family may be; they are still your family.
I hope you can find comfort in that fact.
How Do I Respond?
If somebody describes your family as ‘broken’, you have every right to respond in a respectful manner.
Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not you choose to respond, however if you do, here are a few tips:
Remember the person likely had no ill-intent
Find comfort in the fact that you may be changing somebody’s perspective for the better
For example, you may say:
“I really appreciate you talking with me about my family. I know you have no ill-intent, though, it would mean a lot to me if you didn’t describe my family as broken, my parents are just separated.”
By responding in such a way, you are directly contributing to bettering discussion around divorce and separation. Go you!
Oops! I Use The Term ‘Broken Family’, I Feel Bad Now!
When describing a kid’s family as broken, it is highly unlikely that you had any intent to negatively impact the child’s perception of their situation.
In fact, the term broken family is entrenched in a lot of cultures and commonly used.
Put simply, it’s how they have always referred to families who may be divorced or separated.
However, although actions speak louder than words, words still hold meaning.
Being conscious of what a ‘broken family’ may mean to someone and how it may make them feel is a massive step in the right direction.
If you have previously labelled a situation of divorce as broken, you should not feel bad.
Equally, you should not feel as though you cannot speak of situations of divorce ever again.
In fact, I would encourage the opposite!
Aiming to understand the perspective of a kid whose parents are no longer together is a brilliant step forward. I hope that reading this blog has helped you to do so.
If Not Broken, Then What?
Divorced, separated, no longer together, split, apart.
Describing a family situation as any of the above words rids the negative association engrained in the term ‘broken family.’
Rather, by using the term 'divorce', you are simply stating a fact.
Being mindful of the words we use can seem like a very little change in the big scheme of things.
However, words matter, especially when they imply something negative.
Being conscious of the words you use may have a significant impact on the person you’re talking to.
Reach Out To Me!
Although not being in your shoes, I aim to understand and honour your unique position in this world.
Please feel free to contact me by submitting a contact form here or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.