What’s in a Family Tree?

DSC_0228I love researching my family tree, and in the midst of doing so, I came across some interesting research. Much of that has become a part of my first novel, The Fabric of Hope, which will release in just a few weeks!

But knowing about your family heritage isn’t just for writing a novel; it’s about knowing who you are.

Studies show that the more individuals know about their family history, the better they are able to handle the challenges that life brings. And research proves that people who know about their family heritage have better self-esteem and feel more in control of their lives, even if their heritage isn’t spotless.

When my children were young, my mother came to visit and, through a series of events, we decided to tape her stories. We’d ask simple questions like, “Tell us about your pets.” “Tell us about difficult illnesses you got through.” “Tell us about your school days.” “Tell us about holiday traditions you had.”

“Tell us about your favorite toy.”

“It was a pig’s bladder,” she replied.

On and on we went for two weeks, and it was fascinating. We learned so much about her, our family, and what it was like “back then.” We still have those tapes, and they are a treasure to each of us.

Why is this so important? When we know about we family history, we are simply more resilient and see life in the larger context of history. We belong to something bigger than today’s individual challenges and can look beyond the tough things we’re facing today. We can see and hear and know that others have faced some pretty hard things but have overcome. So we can too.

Family history gives kids an anchor, a foundation from which they exist and live and can thrive. And they can find hope and healing in their family stories.

One caution: If the family history is riddled by abuse and/or disfunction, stick to the positive things like traditions, funny stories, and things that will build them up and not tear them down. After all, they are a part of that family, even if there has been a death or divorce.

So tell family stories often. Interview and record your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents telling stories while they are still here. You will help your kids become resilient, well-rounded children who know that they are an important part of the human story.

How do you pass on your family heritage? I’d love to know.



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