It started when our son Chris was a little guy. He and I would pass by a bunch of caramel apples arranged prettily in a candy store window. We’d give each other that knowing look, then dive into the store to have a clerk cut one up for us to share. We’re hard core too. We’ve never been into sprinkles, nuts or chocolate chips. Nope, we take our caramel apples naked, like God intended. It’s my personal theory that since there is fruit involved and because you split it with someone you love, the sticky caramel calories don’t count. Splitting a caramel apple at this time every year is one of our many mother/son traditions.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can help your family be happier, well-adjusted, and able to counteract the forces which cause families to fall apart, the answer is to create family traditions and pass on your family stories. These are the micro stories that make up your larger family narrative.
I’m not just saying this out of the blue by the way. In 2013 both the Huffington Post and the New York Times reported on the “Do You Know” study. This study involved asking children a series of twenty questions about their family history and then putting them through a battery of psychological tests. Researchers reported being “blown away” by the results.
“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,” (Stories That Bind Us, New York Times, March 2013 – see also Duke, M.P., Lazarus, A., & Fivush, R. (2008). Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45, 268-272).
Do your children know the answers to questions such as: Do you know where your parents met? Do you know where your father, mother and grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth? Do you know some of the jobs your parents had when they were young?
Family gatherings (dinner table, holidays, vacations) are places where traditions and these important stories are passed down. Truth be told, when it comes to caramel apples I think Chris liked the fun tradition more than the apple. But you know what? I’d lay money on my son developing a similar tradition with his own children one day as he tells them the story of this tradition he had growing up with his mom.
FAMILIES ARE ABOUT CONNECTION and nothing says, “You belong here” more than sharing sacred family stories and traditions. It helps your children see they are an important part of a much bigger picture.