We have become recent fans of Bruce Feiler who posted an article in the New York Times on March 17th about his long search to find how to create resilience and self-confidence in children. He found the answers somewhere you might not expect. He says,
“The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”
This family narrative might include constructive family dinners, family meetings or a family mission statement but the article points out that probably the most important factor in producing strong, resilient children comes from being part of a family that is bigger than themselves, of knowing who they were and where they came from.
During his search Bruce Keiler contacted a Dr. Marshall Duke who had been working on this issue for many years. His wife had been working with special needs children and discovered that those who did best were those who knew a lot about their family’s history. “Dr. Duke along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.”
“Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?”
“Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”
So start telling stories. Share your family history with your children Most importantly, include the hard times and the examples of overcoming adversity which can in turn help them to be resilient.
We think this is brilliant and love that Mr. Feiler has validated so many of the concepts that we have been teaching for many years. To read the entire column click here.