Holidays! Here they Come! (I don’t mean the dates - I mean your Family Members!)
L.T. Force, Ph.D.
In my Theories of Social Casework Class - the first assignment I ask the students to complete is to create a 3-Generation Genogram.
A genogram (also known as a McGoldrick–Gerson study, a Lapidus schematic or a family diagram) is a pictorial display of a person's family relationships and medical history. It goes beyond a traditional family tree by allowing the user to visualize hereditary patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships. It can be used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior and to recognize hereditary tendencies.
Murray Bowen invented the concept of the genogram as part of his family systems model in the 1970s. Genograms were later developed and popularized in clinical settings by Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson through the publication of a book titled Genograms: Assessment and Intervention in 1985. (Wikipedia).
The purpose of this assignment is twofold: 1. Develop an awareness of intergenerational family structures and dynamics; 2. to afford students the opportunity to get a sense of: “what it is really like to talk about one’s family system”. These students are in training to enter the field as Caseworkers and Therapists - and often we ask clients: “Tell me about your Family….and then we sit back and take notes”. Through this assignment, I want my students to understand - often it’s not easy for a person to talk about their family.
Well, it is that time of year. The Thanksgiving Holiday is upon us - and we gather with family and friends. As I stated in a previous Blog - titled: “Even the Turkey Left the Table” (November 22, 2020).
Family gatherings can be a joyous event - where families look forward to the Thanksgiving gatherings. However, there are individuals who would love to see the development of a calendar year - that would exclude any and all opportunities (Birthdays, Holidays, Anniversaries, Graduations...etc.) where a family gathering is expected. (Also, as a result of the Covid Quarantine - there were multiple reasons for families to not gather and assemble.) From these scenarios - “What do we know? We know that when families work - they really work and when families don’t work....they really don’t work!” The result? Holidays! Here they Come! (I don’t mean the dates - I mean your Family Members!)
From a: “Family-Systems Perspective”, we know: “every family has: ‘a currency’, every family has toxic issues....every family has secrets....however, every family has strengths and every family has traditions. As I tell my students: “if you feel your family doesn’t have traditions....when your family members start to gather at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table....immediately head to the chair at the 'Head of the Table' and take a seat". I ask them to reflect on how that would ‘play-out’ at the dinner table. My students laugh and smile - because for many of them this: “bold and brazen act would not be acceptable” - they would directly be instructed to: “remove yourself from that seat...that is not where you sit....that seat at the ‘Head of the Table’ is for:
" ________________” (you fill in the name or person from your own family-system, i.e., Father, Mother, Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, Guardian....etc.....that sits at the: 'head of your table') ....all families have traditions....
“The Thanksgiving Holiday is a Holiday all to itself.” Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa where there are exchanges of gifts - Thanksgiving the gifts are: presence, conversation, food and drink - with no distractions or focus on wrapped gifts - just a focus on: presence, conversation, food and drink. One Thanksgiving, we ran out of milk for coffee and dessert. I drove to a local gas station to buy the milk. When I entered the gas station there was a local Deputy Sheriff buying a cup of coffee. We started to talk and I asked her how her day was going. She said: “fine, but I’m so glad it’s almost 4:00pm - that is when my shift is over. I hate working the evening shift on Thanksgiving”. I asked her, Why? She told me why. She said, what she has commonly seen is: “families typically get together early in the afternoon for Thanksgiving - everything goes well early on....they laugh....they drink....they drink some more....they eat.....they drink some more....they drink some more.....things are said.....arguments erupt....fights begin on the front lawn....and then the Police arrive. This is the reason - I’m so glad I’m off-duty at 4:00pm. Happy Thanksgiving!” Thanksgiving the gifts are: presence, conversation, food and drink - with no distractions or focus on wrapped gifts - just a focus on: presence, conversation, food and drink.
Here we are, ready or not - people are preparing, people are assembling - game on - it’s Thanksgiving! The gifts of Thanksgiving are: presence, conversation, food and drink - with no distractions or focus on wrapped gifts - just a focus on: presence, conversation, food and drink and family community. The take-away? There is no reason for the front-yard antics - as described above by the County Sheriff. It’s a day for: “Thanksgiving ….and a Day for Gratitude”. Hopefully, as individuals and as a collective family, we don’t lose sight of those emotions and feelings.
And one more thing: “Fret not, they will all be back again next year….Thankfully....and you wouldn't want it any other way! ”