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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Honouring Each Family Member’s Identity

My all-time favourite animated classic is Meet the Robinsons (2007). One of the salubrious features of this all-ages belter is the underlying message, besides to keep moving forward: the intrinsic and unique value of each family member.

In the movie, the Robinson household is very kooky to say the least; it’s large and each of the eighteen members (family and non-family) of the family unit has a particular eccentricity. And they are all so different from one another.

Notwithstanding the exaggerations of theatre, our families—to each member—are just as matchless so far as the uniqueness of identity is concerned.

Difference defines family.

Resisting Temptations To ‘Stamp’ Identity

Families throughout history have been plagued by a phenomenon, generally wrought by a parent or both parents or a guardian, known as stamping an extrinsic identity on the family, on its members, or on a member. This is often seen as a parent living through the child; the child then bears the seal of a vision conceptualised by a parent, often long ago; one not the child’s own.

This is dangerous territory. When parents usurp the innate locale of their children, dissuading them from following another path, they potentially undermine and confuse their distinctive spirits.

It’s even worse when children, generally speaking, go out of their way to meet with the approval of their parents—they might readily comply with the desires of a parent against the flow of their inner urge and, therefore, deny their identity.

The discerning parent, one who is reconciled to their pasts, to the unmet goals of a bygone era, will push past any temptation to coerce into their children their goals—projections of their unreconciled desires. They will allow identity to form as it should form—in a seminary of support, gentle guidance, and encouragement.

A Good Goal – To Embrace And Solve A Mystery

As families, and their individual members, grow up and into identities all their own—to their individual satisfaction and group celebration—there is the need of a goal common to each person: to embrace and solve, each in their own time, the mystery of identity as it is found wound deeply into the heart of each one.

This is no easy task and it requires an earnest search; one that, when undertaken, does eventually prove successful—even if that means identity is finally shored up in adulthood. There are many late bloomers.

Importantly, identity seems to be not so much fixed, but mouldable throughout life as identity morphs with our situational environments and the choices available to us over our life spans. There is freedom to change.

One skill we will want for our children is the ability to resolve the mysteries of life regarding identity as they occur again and again. There is less anxiety and depression as a result. Life requires this sort of resilience for adaptation.


There may be no better gift a family, and each of its members, can be given than the freedom to develop identity without coercion. Honouring the formation of identity is the greatest parental task; it’s a key responsibility and a joy to behold as it is unveiled.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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