Relationships: The Path to Longer, Happier Living – Extended Family
This post was written by Jim Smith, a long time friend of Project Patch who worked as a therapist at our Youth Ranch and helped launch our Family Experience. He no longer works at Project Patch but continues to serve families, teens and equip the church for ministry.
I know of a late middle-aged man who would have to be placed at the lower income rung in our society. I am not placing any value or lack of value on him as a person, just making a factual assessment. This man is unemployed, lives alone, is usually a bit unkempt, often has body odor, and is missing front teeth. His transportation is iffy at best and he uses marijuana daily (legally) to cope with pain and the circumstances of his life. He has a state provided counselor and case manager who tried to have him take an antidepressant but he would not cooperate, “I don’t like the way they make me feel.” I believed the antidepressant to be a good move and would help him improve his life but he convinced himself they were making him feel strange. Recently he has initiated contact with a cousin who lives in a distant state. This cousin provided daycare for him when he was a child and was a good influence on him during his adolescent years. As soon as my friend made contact with his cousin, I noticed his countenance improved. Now he seems a bit rejuvenated and is making plans to move to his cousin’s state who has promised to help him get a new start in life. The impact of extended family members on our sense of well-being and quality of life cannot be underestimated.
Stuart Lieberman in his article “History-Containing Systems” written for the Association for Family Therapy, writing about the sociological reality of kinship within the extended family writes, “The kinship is the network of human relationships created by genealogical ties and by social ties such as adoption, blood-brotherhood or ritual co-parenthood. Extended families are multi-generational kinships.” He makes the point that we all have extended family and are affected by the multi-generational culture that gets passed down through generations.
I have found this to be true in our Family Experiences. Usually, during our three day Experience, I will do a genogram (a diagram that gives a visual representation of the family) that goes back three generations. Families are usually amazed at the traditions and culture they keep alive, whether good or questionable. This usually leads to great discussion about how the family can often change it’s culture for the better.
We are linked to our family. If our extended family is one that gives support and reassurance in the context of truth, it will be a positive force in our lives providing happiness or peace which in turn helps us live longer. There was a time in our country when extended families lived geographically close to one another. Today, our extended family is often spread across the country. Fortunately we live in a time of social media communication that can allow us to reach across distances to reconnect or stay connected with our extended family.
Above, I referred to a cousin who reached across several states to give a man encouragement and hope for his future. We are members of an extended family, have we reached out recently?
How have you been impacted positively by your extended family?