Do You Know?

Senior man (60s) and grandson (9 years) holding hands, walking in the park.

A friend of mine recently shared with me about a road trip he took “down memory lane.”  He and his son and the two grandsons drove through several towns where my friend once lived.  He pointed out to them the houses where he lived, schools he attended, playgrounds he enjoyed, churches he attended where his father served as pastor, along with other special memory spots he wanted them to see.  The trip was meaningful for all of them, but in different ways.

His trip reminded me of an article I read last year (Christian Century, p.21, September 30, 2015).  The article told about Marshall and Sara Duke, both psychologists, who have studied the relationship between young people’s knowledge of family stories and their resilience.  They found that knowing even simple things about your own family can improve your chances of successfully facing life’s challenges, especially disappointments and trauma.

Marshal Duke and another colleague developed a “Do You Know?” scale based on a series of questions:

  • Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  • Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  • Do you know where your parents met?
  • Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  • Do you know the story of your birth?

According to Bruce Feiler, who wrote about this research in a 2013 New York Times article, “The ‘Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

Perhaps a good road trip down memory lane, or some old-fashioned sit-down conversation, would help our kids and/or grandkids know more of their family history.  Such stories may even contribute to healthier and happier living.

By Ron Davis, DMin, MDiv, LMFT
Covenant Counseling Center