Every day I am a witness to the burdens that are either placed on or lifted from the developing identities of the young souls in my classroom. Many of my students have been blessed with loving, healthy families that continually affirm the growing individuals in their households. Sadly, many of my students come from broken homes whose shattered pieces have pierced their hearts to the very core of their being.
This is not to say that the children in the first group I mentioned do not, at times, come to school feeling sad or at odds with their families. On the contrary, they have bad days and rebellious moments like every normal child. Yet there is a difference between how quickly they recover their equilibrium and the bewilderment of the second group as they seek to understand what their equilibrium is. Obviously none of these children are lacking in material benefits since they are attending a private school, but experience has shown me that material possessions and an excellent education cannot replace a family affirming your place in the world.
I believe that a person’s identity is inextricably linked to his relationships with family. The students who are passed back and forth between split households, or spend hours alone in empty houses, or are abandonded by an unfaithful parent, consistently struggle with believing that they are not valuable or loveable enough for their parents to want them around. On the other hand, the children from intact homes, or a single-parent who makes effort to affirm them, are secure in their identity as a valuable human being. And I also believe that no one outgrows their need for affirmation from their family, especially from their parents.
Where does this realization leave us? We need to accept the responsibility we have in our family: as parent, child, sibling, cousin, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle, grandchild, or grandparent. Then, we need to fulfill those roles to the best of our ability. We cannot restrain or withold the love our very souls were designed to give and receive. You might be afraid to remember the past and all of the torture and mistakes it holds, and so you allow distance to grow between you and your family, thinking that will alleviate the guilt. Perhaps you resent certain members of your family because you think they are loved more than you, or they remind you of things you want to forget. Maybe you feel like you are the black sheep of the family, the one nobody wants to spend time with. It’s a possiblity that you were the hot potato child, passed from one household to another, and in the process you accumulated a mountain of hurt on your heart.
February is the month of love. As cliche as it sounds, we cannot change the old past. However, we can make the young past beautiful by forgiving and loving our family members today. If there is any possible way to embrace your family right now, do it. It will help you heal.
“Nothing connects you to who you are quite like the people who knew you when.”
~Whole Living magazine