No doubt, family history is a great way to build your family’s sense of togetherness. With a shared sense of where you come from and what your ancestors accomplished, parents and children tend to share stronger bonds as a united tribe instead of as a group of strangers living under one roof.
Still, some genealogists dig into their family’s past only to find a collection of scoundrels or criminals. In these cases, family history can be an embarrassing exercise, digging up secrets many would rather keep buried.
In either case, your family’s present is as important as its past. After all, what good is investing so much time in researching your ancestry if you are squandering your time with your own immediate family. What good is searching out the great stories of the past if you are only creating bad stories your descendants will want to forget about. In short, as you are learning more about your roots, don’t forget to nurture your branches.
To help you create some great stories for your descendants to cherish, here are five suggestions:
- Eat dinner together. Study after study has proven that families who eat dinner together at the table have fewer interpersonal problems. In fact, children of these families do better in school, careers, and future relationships. Most importantly, parents and children establish a time when they can communicate and enjoy each other’s company. So, no matter how busy your family gets, set time aside to partake of a warm meal around your dinner table every night with everyone present. A little scheduling will build relationships you and your descendants will treasure.
- Take family vacations. With all of the money we pour into large purchases like electronics, vehicles, or clothes, few things have been found to promote personal and family happiness like family vacations. Studies have shown that, while stress actually increases with the purchase of new automobiles or big-screen TVs, family vacations reduce stress greatly and increase the lifetime achievement of family members. So plan and take that trip to the Grand Canyon or even a weekend camping trip. Children don’t forget these experiences and neither will parents. When the car has gone to dump and the TV is obsolete, you will still have golden memories to pass onto your progeny.
- Show up at big events. There are some events that have special meaning. We remember what happens at these events more than we normally would. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, big sporting events, recitals, school plays, holidays, weddings, and funerals are some of these big events. When these events happen, be there. Don’t let cares of the everyday exclude you from the events that everyone will always remember and that will never come again.
- Make time for one on one. You probably know that each member of your family is a unique individual with his or her own talents, worries, and accomplishments. Studies show that children and spouses who receive one on one attention report much higher levels of satisfaction with their families and higher achievement in other areas of life.If you have children, spend time with each one individually. Take them to the store or to a restaurant, and ask them what is happening their life. If you are married, go out on dates regularly and make it special, even if it is just a candlelight dinner in your basement.
- Tame the tongue. Few things can uplift and strengthen people like words can. On the other hand, few things can cause lasting harm like words. Countless families have been broken up by careless words often said in anger or haste. Sadly, these words can be remembered for generations, overshadowing whatever good memories there may have been. Don’t let careless words ruin your family bonds or turn your family history into a tragedy. Learn today to give more praise than criticism. Start today to avoid negative comments and find positive things to say. Learn to be patient and humble. Your words will build a family legacy of healthy, bond-building communication and love.