What Do Dreams About Family Mean? 11 Common Dream Symbols, Decoded

By their very nature, our dreams are divorced from the mundane reality of our waking lives, which is why they feature so many giant talking spiders and cameo appearances by Jaden Smith (just me?); but every so often, the things that occupy our conscious minds leak into our dreaming minds, which is why most of us have had dreams about our parents and family. Whether we love them, hate them, or just wish they'd stop including us on so many email chains about inspirational YouTube videos, our families occupy a key place in our subconscious. And when they show up in our dreams, they don't just help us better understand what's on our minds — sometimes, dreams about our families help us better understand our relationships with our families themselves.

More than any other set of dream meanings or symbols, the way we interact with our families in dreams is related to the way we we interact with our families in real life. Whether our dream-time mother signifies loving comfort, or a deadly threat, has everything to do with our relationship with our real-life mother. But still, there is some broader symbolism we can read into some dreams about our family — especially some of the more disturbing ones.

So while your first tool of reference for decoding a family dream should be your own diary, we've tapped "definitive" dream interpretation site Dream Moods to assemble this primer to understanding dreams about your family. And remember what Tolstoy said: "Happy families are all alike; but every dream family is super bizarre in its own way."

Dreams About Your Mom

When your mom makes a pit stop by your ol' subconscious, it can mean that you're trying to make contact with "the nurturing aspect of your own character." Since mothers can often symbolize comfort in our minds, dealing with your dream mom may mean that you are looking for guidance or comfort in the world. Discussing a specific problem with her in a dream may mean that you are unsure of how to deal with it in your waking life, and are looking for a calm and nurturing solution.

Alternately, seeing your mother can mean that you have a problem "freeing yourself" from your mother's influence — I mean, look! She won't even leave you alone when you're sleeping!

Dreams About Your Dad

Many people see fathers as symbols of protection and authority — which is why seeing your father in your dreams might symbolize a need to be more self-reliant. Kinda ironic, right? But he's showing up to remind you to take charge and be the authority of your own life. Are you relying too much on someone else in your life to make decisions for you? Like, say, Danny Tanner? Well, your dream dad and I both think that now would be a good time to stop, and go your own way.

Dreams About Both Of Your Parents

Seeing your folks together in a dream, presenting a united front, symbolizes "both power, shelter, and love" — that is, if you get along with 'em. Seeing them together can also represent specific concerns or worries you have about your relationship with them — like the way they don't take your ambitions seriously, or the way that they refuse to learn how to text properly.

Dreams About Your Grandma

Typically, grandmothers represent "nurturance, protection, and unconditional love" in dreams — so a visit from your grandma when you're a sleep might be very similar to a visit to your grandma when you're awake (but probably with fewer cookies). Seeing a grandmother who has passed away may mean that you are still grappling to understand her death (especially if she's doing something unusual in the dream), or simply that you miss her.

Alternately, your grandmother may appear as a manifestation of the ancient archetype of the wise old woman or crone who speaks wisdom, which is pretty cool, if you ask me. I wish I dreamed about crones. I mostly just dream about Jaden Smith, whose wisdom is suspect at best.

Dreams About Your Grandpa

Grandfathers usually symbolize tradition and wisdom in dreams. Like your grandmother, if he's passed away, his appearance could be your mind trying to "come to terms with why he passed away." And if he's still alive, your brain just might be trying to remind you to call him.

Dreams About Your Sibling

Dreaming of your brother or sister usually directly relates to an aspect of your real relationship with them. However, if you don't actually have a brother or sister, the one that you dream up may represent an unacknowledged aspect of yourself that you need to get in touch with. Or, it may represent that the tween jealousy you felt for Tia and Tamera Mowry never went away. Hell, why can't it be both?

Dreams About Your Stepparents

Did one or more of your parents re-tie the know in real life? In that case, dreams of stepparents can mean that you are trying to cope with a troublesome relationship with them or another parental figure in your life. However, if you don't have a stepparent, dreaming of one "may represent some unresolved issues and tension" with one or both of your actual parents.

Dreams About Your In-Laws

Since people have such widely varied relationships with their in-laws, it's tough to point to one specific meaning when they pop up in your unconscious mind — depending on your specific experience with your in-laws, their appearance may make it a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare.

But if you must translate it into some kind of symbol, a dream with an in-law in it typically hints at some inner turmoil that it would be good for you to work through. I mean, not dreams about my in-laws, though. My dreams about my in-laws are just about how much I love! My! In-laws! (hi Ruth and Ira).

Dreams About Your Whole Family

Here's a doozy of a sentence from Dream Moods: "To see your own family in your dream represents security, warmth and love. It could also symbolize bitterness, jealousy, or rivalry, depending on your relationship with your family." Geez, what else might seeing your family in your dream symbolize? Global warming? The upcoming election? Your desire to see Kid Rock perform live in concert? Am I leaving anything out?

Basically, the meaning of your family in your dream hinges on the meaning of your family in your life. But if your family members are acting abnormal (or, you know, more abnormal than usual) in your dream, it could signify that you want to distance yourself from them.

Dreams About Someone Else's Family

Dreams about someone else's family can either be expressions of jealousy, or of hope: they tend to either show what you wish your own family was like, or represent the enduring importance of family in your own life.

Dreams About Your Own Family Being In Danger

Ah, now we're at the juicy stuff. I've dreamed that a totally innocuous family member tried to stab me with a kitchen knife — have you? Dreaming that a family member is trying to kill you is a tricky one — but it can symbolize that you are going through a healing process related to that family member, or that this family member has been involved in cutting off an essential part of yourself. To dream that you kill a family member (or just try to) might mean that you feel on the verge of losing your temper with them.

But of course, you aren't the only danger to your family on the astral plane. Dreaming that you are being told that a parent has died can mean that you are feeling neglected in some aspect of your life, by some powerful or nurturing figure. Dreaming that your family is being murdered can mean that you feel cut off from them — as if they have literally been cut out of your life. So after you wake up, give them a call (you know, after you stop hyperventilating).

Images: Meghan Schuirmann/ Flickr, Giphy (11)