Last week we talked about the academic benefits of including family history research in your child or grandchild's extra-curricular activities or home school curriculum. Hopefully you were able to see the adaptability of family history for course of studies as well as the short and long range academic benefits it can create for the youth in your life. Today, I'd like to address the emotional benefits our youth receive from being involved in family history research. They are far reaching and extremely powerful. I have seen the benefits in my own family and also witnessed it in the families of countless others. Family history work really is a Family Adhesive (the title of one of my Rootstech 2015 lectures). With that as my preface, let's get going.
I discuss a great deal of this in my book and it is something, as I have said, that I have very personal experience with. When your child or grandchild has an understanding of where he or she came from, it can and will completely change their present self-perception and the trajectory of their future. I call this perspective in my book. Learning about an ancestor and living conditions he or she faced helps a child understand where his grandfather's work ethic or her grandmother's tight financial management stems from (not uncommon traits for those who lived through the great depression). Learning about those ancestors can place a missing puzzle piece in your child's understanding of the family dynamics. It will bring compassion, sympathy, and even empathy for different traits--positive and negative--of your family dynamics. As a result of that, your child can (with your help) become a transitional member for your family where negative behaviors may be discovered. Understanding why certain family members behave certain ways due to their research and discovery of their ancestor's lives can alter your child's perspective for the positive. You and your child can work together to break the chain of negative habits and thought processes if they exist by learning how they were developed in the first place. Family history research will also reinforce positive generational traits for your child as well. The idea of being able to accomplish something because "It's in my DNA" has a profound impact on the mental stability and emotional security for all of us, our children included.
We all, whether we realize or admit it or not, have a personal narrative that constantly runs in our heads. We tend to fall into patterns and behaviors exhibited to us. We develop our sense of self-esteem based on these life experiences and this becomes our constant, and very often unconscious, internal dialogue. By understanding who we are descended from and the conditions those ancestors endured, we are better able to change our personal narrative. Can you imagine how powerful that is for a child who lives in a world of "Once Upon A Times" and "Happily Ever Afters" to know that they have the power to change their own personal fairytale? What about for teenagers who feel the constant pressure in today's social media savvy world of creating an appealing narrative for themselves? Understanding where they came from is the key to our youth unlocking the gates of their personal story and slaying the dragons of their personal trials. Studies have shown that greater knowledge and understanding of family history can create increased self-esteem and personal resilience. Our youth gain a sense of being in the driver's seat when they are able to view the map of their history and they are more likely to make better choices for their journey ahead when armed with that knowledge.
In addition to all of this, doing family history work together adheres us to one another. We feel a love and kinship for ancestors long since passed. We feel a love and appreciation for each other while we work together to find information and process it together. Your family history is yours. No one else shares that with you or your children and grandchildren. It belongs to you and to them only. No one can take it from you and you cannot give it to someone else. The bonding, emotional and physical, that that information and understanding create is profound. When your children and grandchild go out into the world, knowing that their family understands them and has lived through the exact same experiences as them will bind them to you in ways nothing else can. In the roughest moments, they will have a sense of belonging and security, knowing that they are part of something bigger than a difficult moment or a bad day. The world is a tough place these days, but wrapping your children and grandchildren in the security blanket that is family history will not only bring warmth and comfort, it has the power to act as an armor when they face those personal dragons along the way.