Until very recently, the major benefit of summer family gatherings was to overcome distance. Careers evolved in the last century from a nation that was 80% farm families to one that is far more than 80% urban.
Early in this evolution, the migration from country to town to city involved relocating whole families, but increasingly it did not. Individuals pursuing different dreams have more often shaped the locale of families in recent years, and that meant far-flung siblings, distant parents, and a growing need to exert effort in fostering identity together through subsequent generations.
Summer was the time, more often than not, because the children were out of school and portable. For some families, the occasion was the Fourth of July. For others, it was a summer birthday or anniversary. Still others declared traditions of their own for time and place. These gatherings proved their worth.
Today, it is not just distance we have to overcome to realize these benefits. We must also rebalance the curiously isolating effects of technology.
Research Confirms Instinct
It turns out that stories bind families together and also nourish us as individuals – the kind of stories that get exchanged, renewed, and even started at family gatherings. They strengthen our identity as people, by rooting each of us in our unique family narrative. These stories, it seems, compose our collective identity.
Much of the research on this effect, according to a New York Times story, originated outside the study of families. The findings, then, were often isolated in the organizations that uncovered them – Silicon Valley and the military.
Shifting the focus of these findings to the family, one of the most interesting studies used 20 “Do You Know?” questions among children. “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” for example, or “Do you know where your parents met?” Children who knew these things had higher self-esteem and a greater sense of control over their lives.
A New Motivation
We are rapidly losing the connections that once held us together as communities, families, and human beings as we spend more and more of our time gazing into screens – big ones at home, middle-sized ones at work, and little ones in the palm of our hand. We are gazing at sparks, rather than campfires. The power of the digital world to show us what we ask for means we see and hear only the things we already prefer, and our human attention grows ever narrower as a result.
In a world such as this one, the goodness of getting family together in the summer goes beyond the fun and recreation we can easily see. Studies suggest a host of other benefits we get – and give – when we make family gatherings a natural part of life, and summer seems to be an ideal time.
As a family resource you can know and rely on, we would like to become part of your family’s story. At Global Family Medicine, we know that wellbeing goes beyond medicine, and we are here to help. Just call us at 843-815-6468.