With the ending of a new school year rapidly approaching, many of us parents are scrambling to figure out summer plans and enjoy the most out of our summer vacations. On the one hand, we feel the loss of carefree, unstructured time while on the other, we yearn for structure and new beginnings. It is a time of transition.
None of us are strangers to transition. In fact, it is often said that change is the only constant. As humans, we are incredibly resilient to adversity and change. Many of us will transition seamlessly into the new school year without missing a beat. But many of us will also struggle to know what to do as we watch our children enter a new phase – starting at a new school, struggling with new material, feeling socially isolated. It breaks our hearts as parents when we see our kids struggle, even when we all know it is a necessary part of life. Times like these test our strength and require us to be deeply anchored. So, how do we ensure that we are providing our kids the opportunities to develop strong roots that will sustain them through difficulty? By developing and sharing a strong family narrative.
A family narrative is essentially a story that is developed over time as we share information about ourselves and our relatives. We talk about the good times, the bad times, and what we’ve gained from both. How is this helpful to our children? Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, found that children who know more about their families were much more resilient and better able to handle stress. He advises that parents should help their children develop a strong “intergenerational self”—they should know about the struggles and triumphs of their ancestors. And the most important theme that should emerge from these stories, according to Duke, is that the family experienced ups and downs and stuck together, no matter what.
How well do your kids know their family story? When was the last time you sat down to tell them about when they were born, where you and your parents grew up, or a challenging time that required everyone to pull together? How connected are they to generations that have preceded them, and how does that knowledge strengthen their confidence in their ability to face the world? I hope that we all find time amidst the chaos to sit with our children and pass on the great legacy of a strong family narrative.