Nothing can prepare you and your children for the future quite like being with and learning about your extended family. Knowing your roots can give you and your family a feeling of being part of something greater than yourselves.
Have you ever looked at strong families and wondered how they do it? If so, you’re not alone. Reader’s Digest recently ran an article from the New York Times that answered the question “What are the ingredients that make some families resilient and happy?” To find the answer researchers asked members of four dozen families and they were astonished with the findings. The study, published in September 2012, showed, “The more children knew about their family's histories, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successful they believed families functioned.”
The study concluded, “any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall.” Being connected to your immediate and extended family seems to make a significant difference in the well-being of a family.
When you think about it, children who hear stories of their grandparents, aunts and uncles and ancestors learn how to deal with life. If Aunt Mary had cancer and courageously fought to the finish, whether she lived or died, they learn how to deal with challenges they may face. When Grandpa tells about his experience in the war, your children learn about patriotism and bravery. When Uncle Joe tells them about the time he was laid off work and what he did to survive during that time, they learn that all is not lost when a job is lost.
5 Ways to keep your family connected with extended family
1. Attend family reunions
If no one is organizing a reunion it may be time for you to take the reins and make it happen. There is plenty of help online to show you the ropes. You don’t need to start out big. A fun, well planned day and evening may be a good way to start the tradition, then build it into a few days at a campsite or resort. As you get to know your family better, you’ll come upon a plan that works for you. A woman just shared with us how she and her husband rented a large cabin for a week near where her father grew up. She assigned families to take a turn providing a meal and some activities for their day. They talked about how life was when Grandpa lived there. She said it was a great success in bringing the family closer and really learning about each other.
The main thing is, get together. Get to know each other better. Sit around a campfire and tell stories from your past — some serious, some funny. That’s what allows your children to get to know their extended family. Cousins can become their best and most lasting friends.
2. Visit grandparents so your kids have a chance to get to know them with just your family. Encourage your parents to share their stories. Sometimes it’s nice to let your children, one at a time, spend a day or two with his or her grandparents. One-on-one time can be priceless in making memories. If your parents are no longer living, consider visiting their graves and telling your children things you remember about them. Take a picture of them along so they can be reminded of who you’re talking about.
3. Take a ride with the kids and visit places from your past
As you ride along, take advantage of this time to talk about how your life was growing up. Talk about how you met your spouse, where you were married, how your parents reacted when they first met your spouse and other interesting highlights from your life. Even tell how your parents met. All of this gives kids a sense of identity.
4. Do some genealogy
Discover your roots and share the information with your children. This is becoming a popular hobby with many families. If you have an old family Bible or journal, look through it. See if you can discover some interesting tidbits buried in it. People often tuck in a treasured letter, poem, photo, or other item that means something special to them. Making such a discovery can be a lot of fun and create a sweet connection with family.
5. Skype your relatives and ask about their lives
. Include your children so they can have the chance to chat with family members who may live far away.
These are just a few ways to stay connected with your family. You can think of things that will help your family discover their past and enjoy the present with family members. It will do wonders to help your family become strong and resilient. They will be better able to deal with the challenges they will inevitably face in their lives, and it will help you do the same. Beyond that, it will build a feeling of completeness as they discover their family.