Sunday, March 31, 2013


This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 1st week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thinking about my teenagers and how they are going to fair when they "launch" is a preoccupation of mine. How will they handle the inevitable emotional, physical, and psychological tests of life?  I recently read an article on the issue but as it relates to whole families.  The Family Stories That Bind Us
describes how Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University and colleague Robyn Fivush tested their theory that family stories build resilience in children.  They created a series of 20 questions linked to their families and how history, good and bad, got communicated. The result was that the more children knew about family stories the better they did when they had to face difficulties.
 The questions about their families were simple, basic things. From the article, " Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?"

Within the group of children that knew their family history, the best results for resilience came from those who told what Duke called, an oscillating family narrative.  The oscillating stories go like this,  "Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family. ”

When I worry about the heartache, cruelty and suffering that is possible in the world and how it might brush up against my sons, what I'm really thinking is "do they have what it takes?"  Have I shared enough to help them understand that the good AND the bad don't last forever? Do they know that their family will be a constant in the midst of whatever success or failure comes their way?  As parents, as people, we need to retell the stories of resilience so that we can repeat history (in a good way). 
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