Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names...They're Kind of a Big Deal

Having an identity is a critical need in the human condition. We all want to know how we fit into the general scheme of this world. Exploring our names is a great place to start on our quest for personal understanding. Maybe you have the type of family that discusses this sort of thing openly, and often. But let's say you don't. What a fantastic conversation starter you have for the next family gathering you attend. Asking about names can be a pretty simple gateway into the world of family reminiscing and bonding.

Maybe you've been feeling the friction with a tween or teen in your household. This can be a sign that your child is simply trying to figure out who they really are. More than likely, the internal clash of growing up and staying safe are throwing your child into the deep end of the pool without a life vest. As a parent, wouldn't you take any chance you could to casually slip a flotation device under your child? A casual conversation about how her name came to you could have the power to buoy her up on a day when treading water is just too hard. Maybe knowing that you found meaning and purpose behind a specific name will help him see that you really were invested in him long before he was placed in your arms. Who knows the possible effects a "This is how you got your name" conversation could have on your child, now or decades from now.

 Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "But you don't live with my family. That kind of conversation would never happen with my kids. I have no idea where to start!"  Well, I have some help for you.  First, have you told them how you picked out their first name?  Start there.  Then, beyond that, I have help for you in my book, Zap the Grandma Gap.  It has an entire section devoted to learning about given names and surnames. The suggestions contained within a few pages throw a pretty powerful punch.  There are too many resources to list here but some that I have in the book include a website resource for surname research and I also talk about discovering meanings, coats of arms, and tapping into family organizations to get the ball rolling. Can you imagine saying to a surly teen, "Do you want to see what I found online today? Our family crest! How cool is that?" Even the most grumpy kid can't help but get a little excited about a symbol devoted solely to defining their name. Am I right?

Take the time this week to have a conversation with your family members about names.  What they mean, how they came to be, and what you think about all of that.  It will be one of your most meaningful experiences this week if you do.  I can almost guarantee it.

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