Developing a family narrative (#yearofbeautiful idea)

Part of my #yearofbeautiful is to strengthen my connection with others. I’ve been thinking today about my connections within my own family and came across this article from The New York Times: “The Stories that Bind Us”.

Here’s the bathroom break version of the article: If you want to create strong, lasting family relationships, develop a strong, lasting family narrative.

That was a short bathroom break.

You are faster than my husband and my four-year old son in the bathroom. *Grin*

Teasing aside…

What IS a family narrative and how do you create it?

Family strain could create dark narratives: money, arguments, name calling, loss, etc. Maybe your family strain is because you made jokes about how long it takes somebody to poop and you posted it for all of the internet to read. Seriously. That’s rude. Don’t do that. Keep poop time-frames personal, people.

I read something in a Reader’s Digest years ago. I was sitting in the bathroom but I won’t tell you WHAT I was doing or for HOW long. Let’s just say that what I read was a simple, short paragraph about how kids are more resilient when they know the story of their family. My memory instantly took me to the basement of my Grumma Campbell’s house where the walls were brown and wood, the carpet was dark, the couches lining the walls also dark, and we were crowded down there with cousins, aunts, and uncles, listening to Grumma tell the history of one of our ancestors. I hope it was either Aquila Nebeker or Christopher Columbus Kearl. They have such great names.

Is that part of my family narrative? Where I come from? Men like Aquila and Christopher? And does it matter that I don’t know the stories of my husband’s ancestors? Or even their names, really?

From the NYTimes article, here are some of the questions that might make up part of your family narrative (none of them are about pooping so take note):

  1. Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  2. Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  3. Do you know where your parents met?
  4. Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  5. Do you know the story of your birth?

I wonder: can my four-year old answer any of these questions? I asked him.

Do you know where Grandma Alicia grew up? “No. Where’d she grow up? In Texas, mom?”

Do you know where Grandmere grew up? “In Salt Lake?”

Do you know where Dad and I went to high school? “In Salt Lake? And then did Dad go in Texas? So did I guess it?”

Do you know where Dad and I met? “Um, at the temple? At Dad’s house?”

Do you know about an illness that happened in our family? “What’s an illness? No. I don’t. Did Grumma Campbell get sick? Her heart stopped pumping.”

Do you know what happened when you were born? “I came out of your tummy.”

According to the article, if kids know these types of things about their families, it’s the “best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

How do you teach your kid to have a strong “intergenerational self”?

Have you done any of the following (which are suggestions from the article):

  1. Create a family mission statement identifying core values
  2. Build up identity through communal activities
  3. Create hokey family traditions
  4. Tell positive stories about your family
  5. Create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones

And if you’ve done #3, I want to know what it is!

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3 comments

  1. I guess my family’s tradition has been to keep going and stay alive. We get fries from drive throughs a lot, too #autismfriendly

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  2. I like this post,although I can’t get myself to identify a family narrative. Hopefully someone in my family will do it. I’m sure we have many hokey traditions, but I can think of one immediately. We like to make our deviled eggs at Easter time look like chicks in shells. Cut the boiled eggs in half (a zig-zaggy cut is even better). Cut off a sliver of the white at each end to use for a “hat” for each chick. Make deviled mixture with the yolks. Fill the whites with nicely rounded deviled yolks to form the chick body. Use toothpicks dipped in a tiny bit of blue food coloring to make tiny eyes and in red food coloring to make a tiny beak. Top with a “hat”. That’s it. I like your idea of a year of beautiful. I may adopt something like that. It may be just what I need this year.

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