Family and Family Dynamics

The Role that Volunteers Play in Supporting Families

This module explores the complex dynamics that form within families and your roll as a volunteer within these dynamics. Below are links to video clips, as well as readings and assignments that will help you explore the world of family relationships.
To begin, please read module 3 of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association's handbook, "Family and Family Dynamics"

Download "Family Dynamics.pdf"


Assignment: Create a Family Map

For this assignment, we are asking you to create a family map, similar to the image below.

Start with yourself in the middle and draw out from you connections to members of your family. Use squares for males and circles for females. Play with other shapes to represent non-genetic relationships (in-laws or friends who you consider family).

An X through a shape indicates they are deceased. Use the symbols in the legend at the right side of the graphic, or create your own legend and symbols relevant for your family.

Now consider what it would be like for a caregiver to attend one of the people on your map. What kind of dynamics will they be faced with as they navigate your family? 
Family map

Good Boundaries Free You
Sarri Gilman | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

This talk was given at a local TEDxSnoIsleLibraries event and produced independently of the TED Conferences. Sarri Gilman has found that clear boundaries enhance relationships and the quality of life. Sarri is author of “Transform Your Boundaries,” which she based on insights gleaned from decades of experience as a marriage and family therapist. 

Boundaries Self-Reflection Exercise

This exercise invites self-reflection on personal and professional boundaries as a volunteer. 
Click here for exercise

The Family Tree Exercise

Many of us are familiar with the family tree that traces lineage and relationship based on marriage, birth and death. But if we understand that the...

“Family consists of people who are tied emotionally, spiritually, economically and socially to one another either by birth or by choice. Members are brought together through different circumstances (birth, marriage, choice, friendship, etc.) to form a complex system which functions according to fixed and changing internal and external influences.”

...then we are able to adapt the family tree to explore this broader concept of family. This also opens a new perspective on our own families and the alternatives and choices that shape family patterns.

We invite you to explore your family tree by examining your relationships – people who are tied emotionally, spiritually, economically and socially to one another by birth or by choice - through various life stages:

  • Early childhood
  • Public school
  • High school
  • College/university/apprenticeship
  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Child bearing and child rearing
  • Retirement.

Remember: don’t limit your thoughts to “blood relations”. Think about how family changed for different members of your family at different times in their lives.

- frequency of contacts
- who is closest to whom
- where are family members located
- who were decision makers or communicators for the family.

Begin exploring the broader concept of family by taking one individual from your family tree and reviewing their experience of family through the various life stages. For example, starting with yourself and early childhood, who were family to you and why? Mom, Dad, siblings, the nanny, a grandmother who lived with you, your daycare caregiver, close family friends, etc. Move on to the next stage, public school and continue to identify family – Mom, Dad, a favourite aunt, a special teacher, your best friend, etc.

Look for patterns and think about the choices your family members made and what influenced these choices.

Debrief your observations with Volunteer Coordinator, Joy LeBlanc, by calling 587.322.9269

Directing Families to Community Resources

Camrose and District Support Services

CDSS is known for excellent debriefing, information and referral support to anyone who might call their office at 780-672-0141 for any reason. Along with running their own programs, CDSS staff are thoroughly familiar with other services available to the residents of Camrose and District. Supportive Information and Referral is available at no cost.

The CDSS Help Book is a guide to human services, rural clubs, and other organizations. 
Help Book


You have completed module 3: Family and Family Dynamics
Go back to the online learning page to access Module 4:
Emotional/Psychological Issues and Support