Building Resilience through Family Traditions
Traditions connect families across generations and over time. When possible, consider arranging time for multiple generations to come together. As you gather to share traditions, your child can learn about where he comes from, his cultural or religious heritage, and your family values as you teach him how to prepare special foods, hunt or fish, climb a mountain, milk a cow, or play kick the can. Your child can learn to make Aunt Beth’s scones or Grandpa’s secret sauce, whether Auntie or Grandpa is still around or not.
Current research shows that sharing family history with your child helps her connect with her inner self and learn more about who she is. It helps her develop pride, confidence, self-esteem, and motivation to keep working towards the positive things in life. A tradition of telling family stories is one of the most powerful ways to help your child develop many of the resiliency skills that will prepare her to learn and grow from her own challenges. Through stories, you can help her appreciate the values you hold dear, learn wisdom from other people’s mistakes, appreciate the power of forgiveness to free her from suffering, understand the satisfaction of hard work and perseverance, and so much more.
Cal’s Story – I loved visiting Grandma Call and seeing the pictures she painted in my mind as I listened to her stories. In my mind’s eye, I could see her father flooding the pasture every winter to make an ice-skating rink for her family and friends. I felt I was there with her family sitting on the front porch during hot summer evenings, fanning themselves and slapping mosquitoes, singing and visiting with their neighbors.
I learned the details about how my mom’s head and face got burned by hot grease, and I felt the pain and guilt Grandma carried for more than 60 years as she described the accident. I saw her anguish as she lovingly cared for her injured baby, not knowing if she would live or die, be blinded or disfigured. From my grandmother’s words, I gained a deeper appreciation for my mother’s struggles and triumphs. The time spent sitting at Grandma’s feet listening to her stories instilled gratitude in me for who I am and for my heritage.
Parenting Strategy – Tell your child stories about your family history. Talk about how your family celebrates and savors the good times, and how they struggle through the hard times and come out stronger on the other side. Talk about mistakes family members have made, and even about tough situations that are still ongoing. None of us gets to pick our family histories, but we do get to choose what we learn from them and how we move forward.
Children who know the stories of their family’s triumphs and defeats develop resiliency as they come to know at an unshakeable level that good things and bad things happen to everyone and that they are part of a long line of people who can find a way to overcome whatever happens. Fortified with this history, your child will become more resilient and able to face his own rough spots with greater perspective and confidence. Your child needs to hear stories about real life and his real family. Start today. It only takes a minute to say, “Did I ever tell you about the time…?”
Add to the history. Weave your child and her experiences into the fabric of the family story. The generations are marching on, and your child is a part of the ongoing saga. Tell her stories about when she was born, what she was like as a baby, all of her funny, scary, crazy shenanigans. Tell her the stories, and then tell them again. Just as family photo albums preserve family memories, telling and retelling stories about your child and her antics, triumphs, and—very carefully and with great love and sensitivity—even her missteps and how she overcame them, creates a strong family narrative. Help her see the growth she’s already had and appreciate her unique personality and strengths.
Maybe you’ll decide to take it even one step further and write these stories down or help your child write them down or illustrate them. Whether you write them down or not, make it a tradition for your child to hear you say, “Remember when you…?”
This is personal. This is family. This is life changing.
By Calvert F Cazier, PhD, MPH and Anne Evans-Cazier, LCSW
Calvert F Cazier, PhD, MPH and Anne Evans-Cazier, LCSW have five kids, ten grandkids, and one amazing great-granddaughter. Combined, they have over 50 years of professional experience helping people lead healthier, happier lives, plus a lifetime of facing their own personal challenges from Tourette syndrome and ADD to cancer, death of a spouse, divorce and creating a blended family, to name just a few. Now, they are ready to help you and your family build the resiliency you need to overcome your challenges now and in the future.
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