Marriage and Family — 03 January 2014
Family Treasures

Treasure hunting during the Holidays


It is not only during Easter that treasure hunting can be fun. All Holidays offer us the opportunity to harvest emotional treasures from our relatives. Learning more about our past and bonding with our extended family members can help us understand ourselves better, feel supported and attain safety in life.

When was the last time you delved into your family history or asked your elders or siblings about their recollections of experiences in the past?  Though there is no one “correct” version of historical family data, listening to others’ perceptions and emotions may help you add colors to the tapestry of your family’s culture and offer you greater insights about yourself.

Dr. Rory Remer who researched “Family Members Agreement on Memories of Shared Experiences” states, “Truth and reality, as seen through the filter of our memories, are not objective facts but subjective, interpretive realities.”

Yet, even when our recollections do not match those of others, the mutual exploration of our prior history creates intimate bonds and evokes a sense of belonging to a greater, safer extended family.

In “Beyond the Nuclear Family: The Increasing Importance of Multigenerational Bonds” Vern Bengtson states, “For many Americans, multigenerational bonds are becoming more important than nuclear family ties for well-being and support over the course of their lives. The multigenerational relations represent a ‘latent kin network’ that may be inactive and unacknowledged for long periods of time, until a family crisis occurs.” And, “The increasing prevalence and importance of multigenerational bonds represents a valuable new resource for families in the 21st century.”

Bengtson recites the advent of a higher divorce rate, single parent families, remarriage, geographical distances and economic hardships as contributing factors to some grandparents’ greater role as emotional resources for the younger generations.

As families expand, preserving close ties with the original aging nucleus, as well as the younger, expanding family circle may facilitate a more cohesive sense of belonging, but, it may also be fraught with conflicts as multigenerational families grow in size.

To reduce friction and increase harmony, family members are wise to show interest in one another. Listen, and rejoice in others’ successes and empathize with those in distress. Since all humans need to be affirmed to feel valued, showing interest through asking questions and validating the speaker will help create a caring atmosphere and a bonded sense of belonging.

Engaging in intergenerational play also creates the feeling of unity, equal footing, bonding and shared joy. Even the less than adored members can become endearing through mutually shared reminiscing and playful activities. Realize that playful, fun activities also help reduce stress and increase pleasure as it cements your family ties.

Find the treasures within your family:

  • Trust that family time can be a beneficial pleasure.
  • Know that facts do not matter-sharing a history does.
  • Seek connection with old and young members of your family.
  • Ask, affirm, validate, support, learn from and appreciate others.
  • Use your family connections as sources of strength, identity and safety.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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