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  • Meeshell Helas

Why and How You Should Proactively Write Your Family Narrative

What is a family narrative?

Family narratives are the way through which children and adolescents connect across generations to create self-identity. [1]


In other words, children are going to ‘hear’ a narrative about who they are whether you intentionally tell them one or not. Research also clearly shows children who have a strong family narrative are more resilient and happy. [2]


There are three types of family narratives:

First, the ascending family narrative: ‘Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …’


Second is the descending narrative: ‘Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.’


The most healthful narrative is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family. [3]


How to write your family narrative:

  1. What are three successes your family experienced?

  2. What are three things members of your family have done that you are proud of?

  3. What are three setbacks your family experienced? How did or is your family overcoming those together?


Overall the narrative needs to be positive, show family unity and resilience. Children need to take away that they are part of something bigger and grander than themselves.


Take the time to write your narrative and then be intentional about sharing that narrative with your children or grandchildren.


[1] Rakesh Kumar Maurya, “Use of Family Narratives as a Tool of Effective Parenting”, The International Journal of Indian Psychology

[2] Bruce Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us”, New York Times

[3] Bruce Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us”, New York Times




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