Every single day I check my social media. Yes, I’m a bit obsessed. Between seeing what all my friends are up to I read, “Murder!” “Terrorist attacks!” “Shooting!” “Death!” I feel my heart racing. Every single day something horrible is happening somewhere in the world and that terrifies me! I get scared to even check the news. The world is becoming a terrifying place to live.
It was a September day in 2001 that no one would forget because it was the day that terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York. I remember that incident very clearly even though I was only seven years old. The news horrified me and I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by all the death and destruction playing out on every channel. I wasn’t the only child affected by these events going on. In fact, hardly any children weren’t effected, which allowed researchers to make an amazing discovery.
The study began in the summer of 2001, four dozen families were asked a series of 20 questions such as “do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?” The researchers were shocked to discover that the children who were able to answer the questions were the children who had been shown to have greater emotional health and happiness then those children that couldn’t answer the questions.
As a child growing up, my family talked a lot about our family’s history. I knew the story of how my parents and grandparents met, what they did in high school, where they went to college. As a family we enjoyed talking to each other about these things.
This research study on family history and its effect on children continued into fall of 2001, after the tragedy of 9/11. This gave the researchers the opportunity to see how these children responded to tragedy.
Again it was proven, those children who knew more about their family background “proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress” better than those who did not. So what they are say is, that my parents talking to me about our family history is what helped me during tragic moments in my life? Really?
Really! Bruce Feiler explains why family history creates more resilient children in his article “The Stories That Bind Us” when he wrote,
“Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply ‘talking through problems,’ as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
I’ve always struggled understanding why family history work is so important, but I guess it makes sense. As we learn and teach our children the stories of what our ancestors went through it creates a positive role model that we have a deep connection too. This teaches our children that regardless of stress or tragedy in their lives, they can bounce back and keep going just like those that came before them.