Everyone has stories to share, and the most important people in the world with whom to share them are those inside your own family tree. Family traditions, quotes and tall tales are valuable tools that can be used to help create a unique family identity. It gives us a sense of where we came from, our values, our sense of humor, our history and sense of belonging to something comfortable, unique and bigger than ourselves. Our family's faith and foundation is transferred to us by other, usually older, family members, and is important to us as we carve out our place in the big world and within our family tree.
The most obvious and sometimes most difficult way to create a family identity is by taking the time to talk to our children, really talk to them, at length, about ourselves, our family growing up, and what their grandparents and great grandparents were like. Why is this so difficult? Because now, more than ever we are shuttling our kids from one activity to another, breathlessly throwing fast food at them and sending them off to bed with no more than, "Brush your teeth," in the way of conversation. We drive here and there listening to talk radio while our kids are plugged into video games and MP3 players with headphones that further distance them from their siblings sitting right next to them.
In order to enhance your ability to create a family identity, and strengthen the family tree for future generations, it is imperative to develop family traditions. This generally comes naturally with holidays and birthdays. However, “ordinary” family traditions are important as well. We live most of our lives on ordinary days, and the traditions you implement on those days will have a big impact on your children and their children and on down through the family tree for many generations. These traditions can include things such as; reading on the big comfy couch together, enjoying hot chocolate together on a cold day, or no electronic entertainment on Mondays in order to enjoy more productive time together.
A half hour, bedtime tuck-in with stories, private talks and prayers will nurture a relationship and deepen the children's sense of belonging to something bigger and more important than themselves.
Working as a team on a project such as gardening for Grandma, volunteering together at a community food bank, or making home made gift wrap can all enhance your family identity and the relationships within your family tree.
Throughout your day you can say things to your children such as, "I'm so glad we live in a family that can talk about anything!" or, "I love that my children are each others' best friends!" When correcting your children, gently point out that, "Our family doesn't call each other names," or "We don't spit on the playground “or” Our family likes to be polite, kind, or helpful to others."
Camping as a family is an activity that has stood the test of time when it comes to knitting families together. What better time to share stories and the history of your family tree than around a campfire while enjoying s'mores and the clean mountain air?
There are countless ways to create your family identity and instill that identity into your children. Use your creativity to think of things that will work for your family members' interests and schedules. Make what you choose an integral part of all of your lives. It will enrich your children's lives, and create an important foundation for your family identity.
Try a few of these ideas or some of your own and you may be surprised at the way it sparks a new depth to the relationships in your family and a deeper understanding of who you; The Smiths, The Coronados, The Demchaks...really are and where your family tree fits into this busy, confusing, big, beautiful world.
Ginny Warren is the wife of Steve and mother of 5 children; she has 2 sons-in-law and one grandchild. She owns and operates two businesses (one with Steve) and writes in her "free" time. Family comes first for Steve and Ginny, and they feel great satisfaction in raising a successful blended family. Visit her at www.familytree4u.com. © Ginny Warren, 2009. Used with permission.