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Generational Learning: A Family Conversation

You are a powerful creator of your family dynamic.

What are the lessons you have learned from your parents?

Perhaps there are some habits and patterns that you cherish and others that you would rather not bring to your next relationship or family gathering.

With that having been said, I have some great news for you: from this moment forward you get to choose what to bring with you.

Family traits, characteristics and patterns influence our behavior as parents, spouses, friends, leaders and/or organizational members. This was given renewed focus for me by my dear friend Jeanne (who also happens to be a family therapist).

She and her family members have come up with a brilliant family empowerment activity. The idea is to engage in a conversation about the past, present and future.

Specifically, the idea is to discuss which characteristics, traits and patterns they “inherited” from their families. The intention is to make some conscious decisions about which characteristics, traits and patterns to celebrate and which ones to leave behind.

Although the original idea was proposed as a “Cousins Retreat,” I can imagine this kind of discussion having profound effects at many levels (e.g., friend to friend, spouse to spouse, sibling to sibling, etc.).

At the same time, just thinking about it has been significant for me. I get to choose….

I was raised in a loving family with its own unique brand of functionality and dysfunctionality. Slamming kitchen cabinets was an acceptable method of dealing with anger. Avoidance and silent punishment were among the predominant conflict management strategies. At the same time, we laughed a lot and vacationed together. We found moments of bliss that cannot be replicated - like harmonizing with my father in church every Sunday or cozying up in the rocking chair with my mother when I could not sleep. My family patterns were such a part of me that I did not even realize they were there until I got married and found that my husband had a completely different frame of reference. We get to choose….

Having children offered a new lens for viewing my own upbringing. Would I make the same choices as my parents? How would I teach my children to deal with conflict? What examples would I set? I got to choose….

I just spent a wonderful week at the beach with my adult children and their significant others and while we were together, I was struck at the ways that we were defining a new family together. We played, talked, cooked and rested together. I am so grateful that 6 adults were able to clear their schedules to spend time together – each of us bringing our unique histories and experiences with us. We are forming a family each time we are together. What a powerful idea. We get to choose….

When it comes to family history - which characteristics, traits and patterns will you celebrate? Which ones will you leave behind? You get to choose.

Make it a family conversation or think about it in the privacy of your mind but either way, find your way forward with conscious decisions. Decide which traits, patterns and characteristics you will bring with you to your families, friendships and organizations.

Choice offers empowerment. Remember the power within - you get to choose.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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