The Blame-Game In The Ongoing Gang Violence Doesn’t Get Us Anywhere – Let’s Work On Finding Healthy Solutions

© A Master Media

By Balwant Sanghera

The issue of on-going shootings in Metro Vancouver, especially amongst South Asian youth, is very troubling for our community.  The blame game already seems to be in full gear. However, looking at this whole situation it appears that this kind of approach doesn’t get us anywhere. Adolescence is a very critical and difficult period both for youth and parents. Building and fostering healthy relationships, bonding, trust and connection between parents and children is a very important factor and a crucial strategy in this regard. However, these measures must begin at a very early age. Research indicates that family narrative can play an extremely important role in keeping our children and youth well connected to their families and out of trouble.

The concept of family narrative was developed in early1990s by a prominent psychologist Dr.Marshal Duke of Emory University. A few years later another professional, psychologist Bruce Feiler hit upon this strategy by accident. In an article printed in the New York Times and reproduced by the Readers Digest, Feiler states that one day their extended family was having dinner at his house. At this family function the children were either playing with theirelectronic gadgets,iPhone,and iPadetc. orthey were arguing with each other. There was very little positive interaction between the youngsters. Feiler states that seeing all of this, his dad called him and asked him to do something about it as their family was falling apart. That is when Feiler started looking into this strategy and how it could help families come closer and bond to-gether. Duke had discovered thatchildren, who knew their family history well,were very resilient and had good self-esteem. They also were very close to other family members and had better control over themselves. Also, they were well-equipped to face any challenge in life. The underlying reason for this was that these youngsters felt better connected to their families. They became proud of their families. Such youth felt that they were part of something much bigger than themselves. Consequently, they became more resilient and happier than their peers.

The key findings of this research were that a strong family narrative is the key to a family’s unity and happiness. This is also the main ingredient for a strong and happy family. Children/youth who know their family historywell, its challenges, successes, failuresand aspirations also have better control over their lives. So where do we start?

The first step in this process is to start with you, as a parent. Talk to you children/ youth about yourself, your trials, tribulations, successes, failures and dreams. It should create curiosity in them. Then take this family narrative one step further to your parents (their grandparents), where were they born, what did they do? Share with your children/youth some interesting episodes from your and your parents’lives. This will likely take you to your ancestral village/city where you and your parents were born and raised.  Develop this family narrative further by reciting important/significant events/incidents from your lives. A family album, videos, tapes or any other auditory or visual record about your life and that of your parents and grandparents is likely to create curiosity and interest among your children and grandchildren.

Duke and Feiler emphasize that this strategy is particularly important for children whose identities tend to solidify during adolescence and late teens. It has been suggested that when faced with a challenge, happyfamilies, like happy people, add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardships.In this context, it is important to communicate effectivelywith each member of the family. Sharing positive storiesabout each member of the family is also a great way to connect with each other. Using the family as a starting point, take it one step further on to the community. For example, our community has been in this country for more than 120 years. Our pioneers went through a lot of challenges in order to survive and succeed.Their stories of courage, perseverance and resilience should serve as sources of inspiration to our younger generations. Consequently, our children and grandchildren will begin to take great pride not only about their families but also about their community. As a matter of fact, large corporations and outfits use this method to inspire and motivate their employees. Once an employee knows the history of the company well he/she feels better connected and is likely to be proud of being a part of it.

In a sense, a strong family and community narrative is the key to a family‘s and community’s happiness and unity. It is a very simple technique that has immense potential in inspiring our children and youth to become productive and proud members of their families and the community.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.

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