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• the higher her self-esteem
• the more likely she is to believe her family functions in a healthy way
• the more sense of control she has over her life
• and the more likely she is to handle and bounce back from stressful events.
The researchers found that knowing your family history actually predicts a child’s emotional health and happiness.2
What’s more, there are three types of stories that form the narratives of every family. There’s the ascending narrative:
Son, your grandfather was the first man in our family to finish high school and start a business from absolutely nothing. Your father was the first one to complete college and has taken the business even further. Now you…
The descending narrative:
Honey, in the old days, it was much easier to make a living. We had everything we needed. Since the market turned, we have nothing.
In a broad sense, the first narrative is an overly optimistic outlook that our family will always be getting better, doing better, and living better than the generations before it. These are families who may tend to think they have it all together.
The second narrative is more of a doom-and-gloom story line and can constitute families who may play victim to the world around them or see their family members or situations in a purely negative light.
The third narrative, known as the oscillating family narrative, is the healthiest story line a family can have. It’s what I referred in the beginning with our premarital counseling.
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.3
We’re all interwoven in interdependent, intergenerational relationships that take place over time. Making sense of our family history and reframing the meaning of how we fit into those events are critical to raising kids who are emotionally healthy and happy.
Use dinnertime, bedtime or even drive time to tell your own family stories to your kids.
The more our children know about their heritage, the more they feel a part of a story bigger than themselves.
And the more empowered they are to write their own.
* Portions of this post excerpted from Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well.
1. The list of the questions is included in Marshall P. Duke, “The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?” Huffington Post, March 23, 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/marshall-p-duke/the-stories-that-bind-us-_b_2918975.html.
2. Bruce Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us,” New York Times, March 15, 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
3. This is an example of the oscillating family narrative as described by Marshall Duke in Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us.”
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