Linda & Richard Eyre: Family traditions, narrative and genealogy
Researchers developed a “Do You Know?” questionnaire with 20 questions that they asked children, which 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?”
After researchers studied four dozen families, Feiler records that they discovered that “the more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. ... The ‘Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”
Interestingly, one of the best indicators of resilience in children was that those who knew stories about ancestors who had overcome hard times in their lives were better able to bounce back and overcome disappointment in their own lives.
Words like “history” and “genealogy” don’t strike some of us as particularly exciting. Yet looking back into our ancestor identity is perhaps the most powerful and effective approach of all for building strong and confident identity within our children.
Anyone with a sense of where she came from (and who she came from) has a kind of security and a kind of motivation that can’t exist otherwise. Children are quick to grasp and understand that they descended from their parents, their grandparents and their great-grandparents, and that they inherited a big part of their physical, mental and emotional selves from these ancestors. By teaching our children a little genetics and a little genealogy, we can help them understand who they are and why they have certain gifts, characteristics, interests and abilities. A child who grows up feeling connections, ties, security, and identity from and within a family will feel no need to seek these same things from a gang or an Internet chat room or someone portrayed on TV who doesn’t share your family values.
It’s truly beautiful to see a child or adolescent who is proud of his nose or her hair color or his stature because it’s a lot like a grandparent’s. Or who feels she can do well in math because her great-grandfather was good with numbers. Or who makes a decision to be honest because of a story he has heard about an ancestor who made a difficult honest choice.
Kids easily make a connection to the notion that “blood is thicker than water” and that who they are comes from their family. The trick for parents is to make genealogy and family history interesting so that kids gravitate to it joyfully and naturally.
To learn more about the book and the cause it represents, please go to The-Turning.com. The Eyres are donating all royalties from the book to charity.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda’s blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com.
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