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That Awkward Moment: Explaining Your Non-Traditional Family to New Peers

We all fear the first day of classes, terrified we might be forced to participate in dreaded “icebreakers.” Most people don’t particularly enjoy this activity since it compels you to open up and become vulnerable to complete strangers. It is more difficult for some than others, especially for those who don’t come from a “traditional” background. In high school, I struggled with opening up about anything that was personal, and it was much serious than just disliking “icebreakers.”

Opening up about my family life to new people and even friends I had forever was something I battled with and I still am battling with today. The former ideological foundations of a “normal” or “traditional” family were seeking to have one mom and one dad. We can’t help but acquire this view, nevertheless, this is not a reality everyone is accustomed to.  Fortunately, society has become more accepting and open to change. Even with a shift in society, this hasn’t made opening up any easier. This first-time confession with someone can be tough, but having gone through this very issue, I have discovered some things along the way that have helped.

  • Give an inch

I’m not saying you have to pour your heart out to everyone you come in contact with, but don’t be afraid to mention stories about your childhood. These memories laid the foundation down for who you are today. Revealing these stories will give your peers some insight into your life, and may also allow you to relate and develop deeper connections. More importantly, this gives your peers a heads up, allowing them time to process, before you lay down all the nitty gritty details all at once. This will also allow yourself to become more comfortable talking about your circumstances in general.

  • Honesty is key

In high school, I was involved in sports, and I always found myself dreading mandatory events that required a parent. There were a few situations in which I found myself being untruthful and it honestly made me feel so much worse. I found myself going out of my way to make excuses as to why my mom or my dad was not around when no one even questioned it. I understand these situations vary based on the person you are talking with, but my true advice no matter whom you are talking with, just be honest. You do not have to give them a long explanation, just be honest with them, because you have nothing to hide. It will feel a lot better to put yourself out there and be honest than to lie. Trust me, I’ve tested it out.

  • Don’t compare yourself

As humans, we are always comparing ourselves to others because it’s a natural instinct. But, when comes to a situation in which you have no control over, that’s when it becomes a deeper issue. This something that is only going to end up in hurt and resentment. You have zero control for your family life and that goes for anyone. If you start comparing your situation to someone else's, it will lead to your feelings getting hurt and you potentially perceiving that person in a negative manner.  

  • Let it happen

Your moment will come when the time is right. Remember to stay away from forcing the situation and saying too much before you or your peers are ready. This is the most difficult part, but all these steps prior will help you with this very moment. You will know when the right time is, and things will start to become easier and easier once you let yourself become vulnerable.

  • You are loved

It can be awkward and difficult growing up in a non-traditional home, but no family is perfect and you are no exception. Things may not always be ideal, but be thankful for the people you do have. Realizing that you have people who do love and care for you will allow you to become more vulnerable. This was something that really allowed me to open up in high school. I was always hiding my family or the people that were there for me the most behind the scenes because I was not fully appreciative of them enough. Once I moved on from the “I’m too good for you phase,” it really allowed me to become more open and be thankful for everything my loved ones had done for me.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you have zero control of your upbringing and, better yet, it has no control over how you chose to live your life. The ball is in your court now, don’t let anything prevent you from doing what you want; the opportunities are endless.

Sidney is a Freshman studying psychology with hopes to one day go to The UMKC Dental School. She is from Jefferson City, Missouri and has a twin brother. She enjoys the outdoors, staying active, and country music.
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