Learning about your family history gives you a glimpse into the history of you, but it also gives you opportunities to find friends in your own family. Working together and playing together (even if it has to be scheduled in today’s hectic life) give family members opportunities to talk, accomplish something together, or just have fun together. Family members can be a constant source of friendship throughout life. But what about the family outside your own house? How can you find friends in your family outside your walls?
Outside Your Walls: A Path to Friendship
At a recent Family History Conference in Ogden, Utah, a speaker told of how she and her husband set up a little structure on their ranch as homage to an ancestor. Inside, they framed the story of this ancestor so family members could read it and get to know him. Their young grandson read the story and was thrilled with it. This is just one example of a “path to friendship,” as Rachel Trotter calls it–a way to develop friendships between generations. In her article, “A Family Story is a Path to Friendship,” Trotter suggests other ways to do this, too. For example, her daughter was given the name of two great-grandmas. That daughter, knowing where her special name comes from, and the two special ladies it belonged to, has a strong sense of self and belonging.
And that’s what family stories are intended to do.
What family stories do you already know? Have you recorded them, or are they still memories living in your head? This article, Creating Family Stories, has some great resources to help you remember and record the family stories you already know, and some questions to ask to find more stories. Get to know your parents, your grandparents, and your ancestors. Then create a record so your children can get to know them, too.
I mentioned last week how fulfilling it is to me to connect with family members I’ve never met, like my great-grandparents. Reading their stories, knowing their life experiences, and getting to know them a little makes a big impact on my own heartstrings. It’s grounding, and it gives me hope.
Inside Your Walls: Connections
Connections to people within the walls of our homes are important, too. We talk about being so “connected” these days–but are we? (There’s a short video at that link about a woman who strengthened a strained family relationship, too.)
I’ve recently been trying to connect with someone who isn’t all that interested in connecting (mainly because he’s, well, a teenager). So I have to be a little sneaky sometimes. He’s quick to list ways we can’t connect: “I’m not interested in __[something you’re interested in]___,” “I don’t want to__[do this thing you like doing]_____”. This person is more like me than he wants to admit (mainly because he’s, well, a teenager), but the easy, go-to things we could do together aren’t that interesting to him. I dropped a bombshell on him the other day. I told him that we could actually find things we have in common and then do THAT together.
So often we think we can’t connect if there aren’t a few glaringly obvious things we have in common. It’s so important to stop looking at things we don’t have in common and focus on what we do have in common. This is when conversations and questions come in. Just finding out what people think, what they like, what they don’t like, what they value, etc., helps you realize what you have in common. Start with that, then build on it.
When we moved across the country (the second time), our kids were 17, 13, and 10. Not an easy age to move and make new friends. It really struck me that first night in our new but completely empty house: we all have each other. My kids left their friends, they haven’t had any time at all yet to meet a single person here, but they have each other.
Bring it Home
Finding friends in your family is worth the effort because we need each other. I know how fantastic friends are, of course, but sometimes people move away or grow apart when things in common stop being in common. Family is always there, so it’s important to make friends in your family.
Sometimes family friendships develop easily, sometimes they take some time and need some nudging. I think the simplest way to foster friendships between family members and between family generations is to fill your home with reminders and stories and photos. Fill your house with connections waiting to happen. You could:
- Create family yearbooks to record and remember good times together. (Scrapbook pages do the same thing.)
- Tell family stories through keepsakes.
- Make family history flash cards.
- Write life stories of your ancestors for coffee table books.
- Hang a wrapped canvas to display your pedigree chart.
- Family-related games encourage connections, too.
Try these ideas or do some brainstorming of your own. Several of the #familyhistoryfriday posts from last month (November 2017) have great ideas for connecting, too.
Friendships within families, whether within the walls of your home or between generations, can be lasting and rewarding. And this rich source of friendship can sometimes be the last place we think to look.
The family flash cards playing card deck was created here using template 144160.