NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Families: A Strong Family Narrative Can Build Resilience

Many psychotherapy clients, who come to see me in my psychotherapy private practice in New York City, assume that all families are dysfunctional.  But, the fact is that there are many families that are happy functional families.  In the Sunday, 3/17/13 New York Times, best selling author, Bruce Feiler, wrote in his article called The Stories That Bind Us that happy families often have a family narrative that is passed on from one generation to the next.

Happy Families: A Strong Family Narrative Can Build Resilience

According to Mr. Feiler, having a strong family narrative can help children to become more resilient.  He cites research from the time after 9/11 that found that children who were part of families that had a strong family narrative tended to bounce back faster than children that didn't.

What Do We Mean By "A Family Narrative"?
Family narratives, the stories about the family that are passed down from one generation to the next,  could be about how the children's grandparents or great grandparents came to this country, struggled to provide for their children, and overcame adversity to make a better life for the next generation.

Helping Children to Develop Resilience and  an "Intergenerational Self"
A family narrative helps children to feel rooted in the family history.  Mr. Feiler called this sense of rootedness an "intergenerational self."  If they know the history, including the many stories that go with that history, children often have a sense of belonging to a much larger extended family.

According to Mr. Feiler, when children hear stories about previous generations, especially where those family members overcame challenges, they often feel more hopeful that they too can overcome adversity.

Hearing about the "ups and downs" of prior generations leading up to the current generation often gives children a sense of resilience, especially if these stories are framed in the context that whatever might come in the future, "we'll face it together."

The Importance of Family Traditions
Family traditions that are passed on from one generation to the next often give children a sense of being part of something much larger than themselves.  Whether it's an Easter egg hunt or having the family come together for the Seder dinner, knowing that there were prior generations who honored the same traditions often helps children to feel that they have an important place in the family history.

I think that even taking out the family album from time to time and telling your children stories about previous generations in the photos can help children to understand the family history and how and why certain things occurred in the family, whether they were setbacks or gains or both.

If you haven't read it already, I encourage you to read the article, "The Stories That Bind Us" to learn some simple steps that you can take to help build cohesiveness in your family.  Many of the suggestions aren't new, but they are good reminders.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.