Marriage and Family — 05 May 2014
Harvest the Fruits of Your Family Tree

Friends are precious and interpersonally essential for enabling us to exchange ideas, share experiences, give and receive help, affirm our worthiness, facilitate our social lives and enable us to exchange generational wisdom. Yet, our relatives provide us with a unique source of belonging, identity, history and genealogical connectedness unlike any other personal bond. Both types of relationships are crucial for healthy adulthood and must be savored accordingly.

Some people assume that adulthood grants us the freedom to distance ourselves from our own family members, whom we did not choose, and supplement our needs through our peers. This perspective of “emancipation” is actually a derailing strategy that hinders our self-understanding, security and deep knowledge.

We call it a “Family Tree” since it parallels nature’s evolution from roots to branches, to leaves, flowers and fruit. Trees can heal their wounds and survive and thrive through their complex system of natural evolution. As in nature, even the smallest wayward branches give character and stability to the tree as it matures and creates its uniqueness.

Similarly, to understand ourselves and feel more grounded we need to maintain our connectedness to our heritage, culture and family history. Those who preceded us have plowed the path we travel. Deepening our relationship with our living relatives helps us understand our unique family lineage and provides greater security and safety through our shared roots, history and culture that enables us to know ourselves better.

Culturally, we have designed a system in which autonomy and self-sufficiency precludes reliance upon our parents, grandparents and others. The costs of forging ahead without benefitting from the past are grave.

An AARP and Microsoft joint research efforts found that “though the internet has opened easy ways for youngsters to connect with their grandparents and 30 percent of both teens and elders agree that connecting online has helped them better understand each other, 15 percent of youngsters report that they do not allow their parents to access any of their social-networking content and 47 percent of teens restrict their grandparents’ access to this information.”

Have you ever observed your teenager interview his/her grandparents about their lives, history, or life experiences?  Have you encouraged your youngsters to explore their family history or inquire about your life lessons?  How much energy have you invested in exploring your own family roots?

Understanding one’s generational evolution, parents’ and grandparents’ vocational, social and cultural experiences, their decision-making rationale, lifestyle, personalities and marital relationships, values and mottos can greatly enrich your and your children’s lives. Reciting famous ancestors’ sayings, decisions and wisdom they may have imparted can help guide you and your children in avoiding past errors and propel you toward healthier life choices and greater accomplishments through value-laden moral principals. Looking back can certainly assist us in moving forward more steadfastly and enhance our and future generations’ life paths.

Trust that:

  • Your family history can be one of the best guides for your and your children’s success, happiness and a more fulfilling life.



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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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