Dr. Judith Wright | December 9, 2014

Holidays: What’s Your
Family Role?

The holidays are a special time of the year, filled with joy, cheerful music and delicious food. They’re also filled with family gatherings – which sometimes feel tense and not so special.

One reason for this tension is that every family is a system. And every family member plays a role in that system.* One principle of any system is that it works to stay the same. That’s why members of your family tend to behave in certain ways, according to their family roles.

Picture last week’s Thanksgiving. These family roles you grew up with still play out today – your sister is still the “clown,” making jokes at the dinner table. Your father is still the “know-it-all,” insisting that he’s the only one who knows how to properly carve the turkey.

family roles
Jimmy Fallon says what we are all jokingly thinking this holiday season!

As an adult, you may think you’re locked into these roles when you get together with your family. But you have the power to separate yourself from your role and become your own individual.

Reflect on how your family roles were played out during Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and how they kept the system in place. Think about the roles themselves – who played what? Who was the star? At your next get-together, try shifting your role and notice the aliveness it adds to your family’s interactions.

Do you feel like you’re locked into your family role? Comment with your thoughts below!


*Family Systems Theory, Dr. Murray Bowen

About the Author


Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.