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one Day at a time

Meet The Alvarez Family Lydia Riera, known as Abuelita, is the mother of Penelope and the grandmother to Elena and Alex Alvarez. Originally from Cuba, she was forced to flee her home country and soon found refuge in America and it has been her second home since. She remains a faithful Cuban and does her best to keep her tradition and culture alive within her family so they don’t forget their Cuban roots. She is also a devout Catholic and confides in the pope and attends church every Sunday. She helps look after the kids and does a lot of household tasks such as cooking, cleaning and doing laundry while Penelope is away at work. She is the heart of the family as she is able to bring everyone together through good or bad times. Penelope Alvarez is a former Army Nurse and Afghanistan war veteran. She is a single mom of two teenage kids whom she lives with alongside her mother. She continues her nursing practice, making her the breadwinner of the family to make ends meet. It’s been 10 years since she got out of the military but the effects of it still remain. She battles with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression. She juggles between working, raising her children and dealing with her own mental health struggles. She would not be able to survive without the help of her mother. Elena Alvarez is the quirky teenage daughter of Penelope. She is very involve in her academics and is the captain of her school’s debate team. She is very opinionated and strong minded for her age and a feminist at heart. She is not afraid to speak out against any form of misogyny or stereotypes, and criticizes the subtle influence of the patriarchy. Her mother describes her as “someone who always looks out for the underdog,” which shows just the kind of person she is. Her views often times clashes with her mother’s and grandmother’s oldschool views but she does her best to get them to understand that the world has evolved and so has society’s views and beliefs. She is still figuring herself regarding her sexual orientation. She goes back and forth about whether she likes boys or not and it takes her a while until she realizes that she is gay and embraces it. The hard part for her is to have to tell her family.

Alex Alvarez is the son of Penelope and seemingly, Abuelita’s ’favorite’ grandchild. Like most kids his age, he is very much absorbed into his appearance, looking cool and fitting in. He plays softball and enjoys watching Youtube videos and playing video games. He tends to use his charm to try to get things that he wants. He is ignorant when it comes to money. His mother tries to teach him the value of money. He also tends to be easily influenced by his friends and can give in to peer pressure. He and his sister fight like typical siblings but they also have moments where they get along.

The Alvarez Family E C H O M A P Church G






Elena 16




Penelope 39

Penelope’s Work Penelope’s therapy group




Culture and traditions


Social & Political issues

Alex 13

Elena’s friend

Softball team School

DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE According to Duvall’s developmental stages, the family is in the “Families with adolescents” stage of the family life cycle as Penelope and Lydia are raising two teens. They are learning to be independent and like most teens, they are still figuring themselves out. Alex is going through the stages of puberty and taking the initiative to find a job so he can earn money. As for Elena, there is a struggle when it comes to establishing her identity due to the influence of her mother and grandmother. They want her to be this strong, independent woman but when it comes to upholding a cultural tradition that she doesn’t want to partake in, they tell her to be submissive and go with it. In this stage, they also start thinking about their future, education jobs and increasing their role in the family. Elena wants to be a journalist and has her eyes set on attending an Ivy league. The family is also in the separation/divorce phase of the family life cycle for divorcing families. Penelope separated from Victor, who dealt with his own personal demons after serving in the military, leading to his alcoholism. This put a strain on their relationship and Penelope decided it was best to leave him after many failed attempts to help him. The loss of an intact family has certainly affected Penelope because she had always envisioned raising a family with a partner. Lydia is upset that her daughter is getting a divorce and does not understand it because as Cubans, “they do not get divorced.” With Alex being the only male in the household, he feels like he has to be the man of the house now that his father isn’t living with them. Penelope assures him that he does not have to take on that responsibility and that the only thing he has to worry about is being a teenager.


Cuban-American The family’s strong cultural ties can be attributed to Lydia’s persistence in upholding their Cuban roots. She makes sure that her family doesn’t forget where they came from. From cooking Cuban meals and telling stories about her time in Cuba and its rich history. Lydia has a very old-school way of viewing things which often clashes with 21s-century realities. For Penelope, the stigma surrounding mental health within the Hispanic community makes her very reluctant to accept her condition. She is hesitant to share her struggles with her family and to seek help, especially because her old-fashioned, traditional mother believes “therapy is for the ‘locos!’ and that they are suppose to get through their problems on their own without medications or therapy. Nonetheless, Lydia’s constant reminder of their Cuban heritage upholds this sense of pride within each family member and helps them as a person of color navigate through a dominantly white society.


Catholic The family was raised in a Catholic household. Lydia is very religious and attends church every Sunday and goes to confession. She plasters the house with images of the pope and symbols of the cross. This causes some tension in the household given that Penelope has a different view on religion. They get into a heated argument when Penelope claims that she doesn’t know if God exists. This upsets Lydia very much and tells her that He does exist because when she was deployed in Afghanistan, she prayed every day to Him to keep her safe. Penelope apologizes and says that she is glad that her mother finds comfort in church but she find comfort in different places. Penelope agrees to attend Church just sometimes which puts Lydia at ease. As for Elena and Alex, they know how important religion is to their grandmother so they just go with what she says.


Verbal The family’s close relationship has fostered a space where they can freely speak their mind. They can talk out any issues they may be having with a each other or in their external environment. However, there are some things that is not easy for them to share with one another. For Elena, she knows how difficult it would be to explain to her mother and grandmother, that she is gay. Nonetheless, the family encourages the members to tell them anything about themselves and not hide anything from each other. And any issues they may have, they can work through it together Nonverbal Dancing is very common in the family, which can be attributed to their Cuban heritage. They all dance in the living room when they’re happy. They cry, hug and laugh together. With all the stubbornness in the household, family members storm to their room when they’re mad at someone and don’t want to talk.

Strengths •

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The family can talk to each other about anything (if the family member is willing) They all have each others back and will protect one another in any circumstance Strong cultural heritage Influential adults that the kids can look up to

Challenges •

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There are differences in views and beliefs, given that they are a three generation family. Cultural stigma of getting mental health support outside the family Religious and cultural values in conflict with accepting queer identity Distribution of roles can sometimes be a challenge between Penelope and Lydia. Penelope wants to establish her own traditions with her kids but her mother makes it difficult when she tries to impose on her parenting.

Problem Research shows that family rejection of LGBT youth affects health and mental health (Ryan, Diaz, Sanchez, & Schroeder, 2012). Rejection correlates to very low self-esteem and puts the LGBT youth at high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults (Ryan et al., 2012). Although Elena’s family was supportive to her coming out, deep inside, the mother and grandmother have an internal struggle to fully accept her as she is. Interventions for this family will be geared towards practicing behaviors that will reduce Elena’s risk for developing health and mental problems and promote her well-being.

Family Systems Theory Family Systems Theory approach views the family as a system. According to Kaakinen and Hanson, it enables the nurse “to understand and assess families as an organized whole and/or as individuals within family units who form an interactive and interdependent system” (as cited in Kaakinen, Coehlo, Steele, Tabacoo, & Harmon-Hansen 2015). Since the family is seen as a whole, any changes that occur in one member of the family will affect all members of the family. As it applies to the Alvarez family, it will be used to assess the impact of Elena coming out on the entire family. There are 4 important concepts to keep in mind with this theory: Concept 1: All Parts of the System are Interconnected – Elena has conflict within herself as she finds herself. She feels like the “weirdo” of the family. She doesn’t know how to explain to her family that she doesn’t want to pick a boy to escort her for her quinceañera because she doesn’t even know if she likes boys. Alex was the first to learn his sister was gay when he overheard her and was nothing but accepting. Penelope was very sweet and supportive towards Elena when she came out to her. But behind closed doors, she had a hard time processing her daughter being gay and she hates herself for feeling this way. She’s not homophobic but she feels weirded out about it. She wants Elena to think she’s cool with it because she doesn’t want her to be resentful. Lydia was also supportive when Elena told her but truthfully, she was very upset. As a very religious woman, she said “it goes against God.” She loves Elena too much to let her know her true feelings. Concept 2: The Whole is More than the Sum of its Parts – For Penelope and Lydia, this new revelation about Elena completely changes the family system and their expectations for the future. Penelope always imagined she would bond over boys stuff with her daughter and see her fall in love with a man. And for Lydia, she expected her granddaughter to continue a traditional nuclear family cycle. Simply put, there is a loss of tradition that they have to learn to accept because Elena’s newfound identity changes the family structure. Concept 3: All Systems Have Some Form of Boundaries or Borders Between the System and Its Environment – Penelope has open boundaries when it comes to her daughter being gay. She leans on a family friend and a queer friend from therapy for advice. She even lets her feelings out to a stranger and how best she can move forward. Lydia on the other hand, has flexible boundaries. She vented her true feelings to her daughter but does not let anyone else know how she feels. She does it to protect herself from being criticized from others but she also does it to protect Elena from getting hurt. Concept 4: Systems Can Be Further Organized into Subsystems – The Alvarez family has the following subsystems: parent to child, mother to child, sibling to sibling and grandparents to grandchildren.

Interventions 1. Becoming informed and educated is the first step for families to understand their LGBT children (Ryan et al., 2012). Talk openly with Elena to learn more about her LGBT identity. They can ask her about her experiences and how she feels. They can ask her how they can support her and what she needs from them to help her. Outcome – Keeping an open mind and learning about Elena’s sexual orientation will help the family understand her better. Elena will be more willing to share her thoughts and feelings and will not feel like she has to hide things from her family. This is also an opportunity for the family members to be educated and informed on a topic that is new to them, fostering a space that will reshape their values and beliefs. 2. Connect your child with LGBT resources (Ryan et al., 2012). The family can attend organizations and events where all members can learn more about the community. They can help connect Elena with an LGBT adult role model to help her navigate through life in the future (transitioning into adulthood etc.) Outcome – This gives Elena the opportunity to connect with LGBT resources that she can’t receive from her family. This can also ease the uncomfortable feeling that Penelope harbors within herself as well by providing Elena a role model that she can relate with. 3. The most important way for families to help their gay child is by simply supporting them (Ryan et al., 2012). This includes the family advocating for Elena when she is mistreated because of her identity. Require that other family members/relatives are respectful towards her. Outcome - Support from family will help build Elena’s inner strength and teach her to value herself, which will help her deal with discrimination and rejection from others.

References • Kaakinen, J. R., Coehlo, D. P., Steele, R., Tabacco, A., & Hanson, S. M. (2015). Family health care nursing: theory, practice, and research. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company. • Ryan, C., Diaz, R., Sanchez, J., & Schroeder, K. (2012). Supportive families, Healthy children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children. San Francisco: Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University.

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N480 Visual Report  
N480 Visual Report  

Family Assessment on the Alvarez Family from One Day at a Time