family on couch

Pornography can tear families apart, so today, let’s talk about a practice that holds families together. What is the single most important factor in producing resilient kids? Turns out it’s all about family stories, according to an article by Bruce Feiler entitled The Family Stories that Bind Us, published last March in The New York Times.

Research that started in the mid-1990’s by Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University led to a startling conclusion: The more a child knows about his or her family, the better they do when they face challenges.BarrusFamily012

To test this hypothesis, Duke and a colleague, Robyn Fivush, developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked kids a set of 20 questions about their family. For example: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your parents 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?

The researchers asked dozens of children these questions during the summer of 2001, as well as taping several of their family’s dinner conversations. The kids took a battery of psychological tests and when all of this information was correlated, the psychologists reached an overwhelming conclusion:

 “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The ‘Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

Says Dr. Duke: “We were blown away.”

Two months later 9/11 happened. The horror of that day gave Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush a rare opportunity to reassess the kids, none of whom had been affected directly, but all had experienced the same national trauma. Once again, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient.”

Turns out this ability to modulate the stressors of life have to do with the sense that a child is part of a larger family—they have a strong “intergenerational self” and know that they belong to something bigger than themselves.Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

And families that tell stories not just of success but of enduring and overcoming hard times do even better.

What You Can DoFamily All Together At Christmas Dinner

So what’s the secret sauce to strong kids and happier families? Dr. Duke recommends two things:

1. Pursue memorable activities with your kids: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers and hokey, fun family traditions. “The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down.” Dr. Duke’s family has a “custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to ‘hunt for their supper,’ like the Pilgrims.”

Mom talking with sons2. “Create, refine, and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

Will strong family traditions help to porn-proof your kids? I believe it will help kids understand that real love, the real love of families, is not peddled by porn.  I’ve known kids from strong families that became entangled in porn, but the love and support of their families helped them to want to break free and believe they could.

What do you think? What are your family traditions that help your kids feel they are part of something bigger? What are the stories you share with them? Comments are often the best part of a blog post!

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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