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Founded by the United Nations (UN) in 1994, the International Day of Families is observed every May 15 to honor the importance of families. Families—both traditional and non-traditional—are the foundation of society. Our most formative years are spent with our families and those people are likely the most important people in our lives, so they should be celebrated. Let’s spend time today finding ways to protect the family unit in society by starting at home with our own!
When is International Day of Families 2021?
Just like in “The Godfather,” the importance of family is emphasized on International Day of Families on May 15.
History of International Day of Families
“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox
The family unit began with the first humans. While families today may look different than they did thousands of years ago, they are as equally important now as they were then. The United Nations believed families important enough to recognize them through a day of observance and, in 1994, chose May 15 as International Day of Families.
As parents, we want to give our children the best start in life we can. The foundation created in a family has been shown in numerous studies to dramatically impact a child’s success. The more stable the family environment for a child, the more likely they will be healthier – both mentally and physically.
Communities all over the world face obstacles that jeopardize the stability of the family. The UN began to recognize this in the 1980s as the Secretary General promoted awareness among decision-makers and the public. The UN went on to establish this day of observance and, each year, select a different family-focused theme to address world-wide challenges around education, poverty, health, and work/family balance, just to name a few.
This year, learn about some of the social, economic, and demographic factors impacting families around the world and see how you can start by strengthening your own.
International Day of Families timeline
The family tree of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher born in 479 B.C., has been maintained for over 2,500 years.
The 1890 US Census data is destroyed in a fire in 1921.
In the UK, Rob Parsons founds Care for the Family, a non-profit organization strengthening families through marriage counseling and tools, positive parenting courses, and bereavement support.
The largest for-profit genealogy company helps over 14 million subscribers access documents to find their family history.
Traditions of the Day
On International Day of Families, celebrate all the eccentric traditions that you and your family share. Every family is unique, and there are countless stories, memories, and adventures we all have shared with our families that are significant only to us. Just like Festivus was a tradition at George Costanza’s home in “Seinfeld,” the traditions carried on within families are all relived today.
It is also very easy to take our family for granted, so take this day as an opportunity to share with your family how you feel about them and how grateful you are to your parents, siblings, and even extended family for providing you with the necessities of life and a whole lot of TLC. Pick a restaurant your family loves or, better yet, one that you all went to while you were growing up, and have a nice evening chattering with your family and catching up on each other’s lives.
By the numbers
1 in 5 – the number of fathers who are now the primary caregiver of preschool-age children.
7% – the percentage of families with children that have a single father.
1.9 – the average number of children an American woman is expected to have.
33% – the percentage of free time siblings have spent together by the time they reach the age of 11 years old.
65% – the percentage of mothers who claim to have a favorite child — typically the oldest one.
70% – the percentage of fathers who claim to have a favorite child.
390 – the number of families who participated in a research study that found younger siblings are more rebellious and aggressive than older siblings.
66% – the percentage of adolescents aged 12–17 who live with both parents.
7% – the percentage of children under 18 who lived in a grandparent’s home in 2017.
82% – the percentage of children who say they value their parents’ opinion over their friends when it comes to making serious decisions.
International Day of Families FAQs
How much time do we spend together?
The average American family spends 37 minutes of quality time together per day. This is due to the busyness of life – both parents and children. Today, take inventory of where your time goes and see how you can increase quality time together.
Why is International Family Day celebrated?
International Day of Families is celebrated to promote the importance of a well-balanced and healthy family.
When was the International Day of Families celebrated for the first time?
The first International Day of Families was celebrated in 1994.
How to Observe International Day of Families
Volunteer with your family
Join in on the global celebration by working together with your family on a project to benefit the community. Need a suggestion? Try Habitat for Humanity: it's an organization that builds houses for those in need. Build a house for a family while bonding with yours.
Build your family tree
Every member of the family can get involved in building your family tree and it is something you can keep for, well, generations! Invite grandparents and older generations to provide valuable information on relatives you may not have met. They will appreciate being asked about your family history and enjoy telling stories of each family member. There are many online tools to capture your family tree data and companies such as ancestry.com who can help find long-lost relatives.
Organize a community family picnic
There might be many families in your neighborhood that would love to get to know one another but just haven’t figured out the best way to do it. A picnic is a perfect occasion to bring people together! Plan icebreaker activities to get to know one another better and then enjoy a delicious potluck meal.
5 Facts About The Family Unit
Traditional families decline
The family until where children live with both parents (married) has declined from 73% in 1960 to 46% today.
Single parents on the rise
During this same timeframe, the number of single-parent households has increased from 9% to 26%.
The number of households where couples choose not to marry but who have children has increased to 7%.
Adoptions add to the family
Over 135,000 children are adopted to American families every year.
Multigenerational under one roof
The number of households that include three or more generations has increased to 28.4%.
Why International Day of Families is Important
It highlights the importance of family in society
If we have stronger families, we will have stronger schools and stronger communities. A strong family unit can help each member feel more fulfilled and better about themselves and the world. It also provides a real-life example of how the human family can work together to create a better world.
It reminds you that all families don’t look alike
Every family is different—family can be defined in many different ways, and the International Day of Families recognizes that. Some families consist of children; some do not. Some consist of one parent; others more than one. International Day of Families is about more than just celebrating those who share DNA with you—it’s about celebrating all of the people you love.
It's an opportunity to have critical conversations
International Day of Families is a time of celebration, but it's also a time for serious conversations about some of the challenges that families around the world face. Many families are dealing with issues like poverty, lack of health care, employment, and child-rearing. And today, we promote awareness and a better understanding of some of these challenges. Which one will you talk to your family about today?
International Day of Families dates