As many families face economic hardships with a struggling economy over the past few years, some question how to positively impact family resiliency and effectiveness. Developing a strong family narrative can bring families together in adversity and provide children with a positive understanding of their family. As families communicate about their history, children develop and conceptualize family values and learn how to encounter both positive and difficult experiences. Family narratives come in three forms: ascending, descending and oscillating. In a descending narrative, families discuss their history moving from success to struggle, where as the ascending narrative is the “rags to riches” story. The oscillating narrative includes events that are successes and struggles, and maintains the theme of perseverance no matter what the family encounters. The oscillating family narrative is shown to be most effective in helping children move through difficult situations and maintain an overall positive sense of family resiliency.
In order for families to construct a narrative, they must foster a sense of history. Parents can choose any number of activities to teach about past events and rituals, but also actively work to create their own traditions. Parents can teach about generations past as well as discuss their own history, where they grew up, went to school, met the other parent, etc. Families who come together and enjoy each other can effectively communicate about both conflicts and stories that create their narrative. As children feel as though they are a part of something special, the family can create a sense of belonging that increases happiness and cohesiveness. Also, creating a strong family identity can help adolescents to create and establish a healthy identity. To increase joy and resiliency, families must discuss positive experiences and great accomplishments, but also the ability to persevere through adversity.
by Allyse Rehak, MS, TriCity Family Services
“The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More” by Bruce Feiler