Resilience, or the ability to overcome challenges in life, is a trait many parents hope their children will develop. Resilient children are more likely to have good emotional and mental health.
Research has shown that children who know more about their families and family history are more resilient and tend to do better when facing challenges in life.
This may be because seeing patterns of overcoming failures and surviving hard times can help children recognise that people can recover and triumph, despite hardships. One of the best things families can do is develop a strong family narrative.
Researchers speculated that children who know about their own family history have a stronger feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Children who knew family history felt part of a larger family.
Family therapist Stefan Walters states,
“We all feel stronger if we are part of a tapestry. One thread alone is weak, but, woven into something larger, surrounded by other threads, is more difficult to unravel.”
Learning about family history may also help children become more compassionate, as they learn the struggles and challenges ancestors were able to overcome. Additionally, knowing stories about past family members help children understand where they’ve come from and develop their own identity.
A researcher from the study stated, “Hearing these stories gave the children a sense of their history and a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ Even if they were only nine, their identity stretched back 100 years, giving them connection, strength and resilience.”
All people have a basic human need for connection and belonging, and people who have basic human needs that are met are more resilient.
In addition to teaching your children about their ancestors, consider strengthening existing family relationships. One of the best ways to have joy and meaning in life is to ensure that you have supportive relationships with others.
Here are some ideas to help strengthen relationships within your family:
Emory University have spent over 40 years researching how people remember and narrate the events of their lives. Explore the full body of work and publications at The Family Narratives Lab.