During all of my years working with families, I discovered that most families have issues that sometimes divide or separate children from their natural need to connect or to integrate within the primary surroundings of the family unit. It is not my purpose to judge or to describe the details of those issues, but it is important to acknowledge the effects that they have on children. Children feel secure when they have routines and they know what to expect. It is the same when they celebrate traditions within their family. These routines and traditions are often carried into their own adult lives. One example is the celebration of half birthdays with a half of a birthday cake. My daughter never mentioned to me that she remembered this event that I began, but she now celebrates half birthdays with her own children...a small but significant event from the imprinting as a child.
I have witnessed families acting as wonderful role models for their children, and I have seen families behaving inappropriately in front of children. Children do not ask to be born, but once they are here they deserve an atmosphere that is child friendly. I once had a parent-teacher conference during which the parents let me know that they were going through a divorce, but their primary goal was to help their child through it. They spent the entire twenty minutes fighting with each other, and I did not get one word in about the child. At the end of the conference I stood and thanked them for coming in, and told them that they could schedule another conference at another time if they wanted. They never did. That same year, another family told me that they were getting divorced, but that the father would be over to help with homework and the emotional change for the children during the week. The child made great progress and remained happy throughout the year.
When families allow their personal issues with each other to interfere with what was once a cohesive unit, the overflow is extensive. By overflow, I mean that everyone is included: parents, children, extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles,cousins, and friends. Children are the ones who bear the brunt. Because adults could not co-exist, events change and everyone loses.
When I taught second grade, the school had a curriculum that included a "peace path." When children had problems with each other, they were expected to stand in front of each other. The child who was upset told the other child what made him feel sad or excluded etc. The other child then repeated what he had heard back. Then it was his turn to say what he did not like, and the other child repeated it as well. They then had an opportunity to create a solution with each other which ended with a high-five, a hand shake or a hug. Wouldn't it be great if adults were given these skills!
I encourage adults to be mindful about their behavior in front of children. The aggression they witness can sometimes become a part of who they are later on. Families often seem to have some level of dysfunction, but it is the those who are mindful of the imprinting that takes place who have the best results!