Sense of Identity, Genealogy, and the Mormon TCK

If you google “TCK Depression” you will find a plethora of articles exploring why the Third Culture Kids most likely will experience depression at a higher risk then their mono-cultural peers. Sometimes it feels like an inevitable byproduct of the lifestyle we have chosen for our children. I am convinced however that by educating ourselves we can give our children the tools to mediate these obstacles as they come up. That is my purpose in creating Third Culture Mormon Kids.

One of the benefits of being LDS and raising TCK’s is that many of the things we practice as members can directly correlate to creating that toolbox. Today we will look at how family history can help create a sense of identity, that many third culture kids struggle with.

A 2010 study by Emory University showed that teens who knew their family history showed  “higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement” . If we connect that to what we know as Latter-day Saints about the benefit of genealogy, we can strengthen our children’s sense of self.

Likewise a 2010 Readers Digest article entitled “The Benefits of Thinking About our Ancestors” further supports this idea:

Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,’ the researchers said. ‘So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.

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My grandfather Glen Perry Shelton, who moved his family to Ghana in the 1960s.

Consider that your children are not the only ones to ever travel- most of us have immigrant ancestors that we can relate to. Sharing the story of their travels helps our kids feel less eccentric. Attaching those adventurous genes to someone else can give a child confidence in their own experiences.

Before my grandmother passed away, I went to visit her. She asked me where I had been and I told her my family and I had been living in Ireland. She held my hand and said, “Oh you are just like Grandpa, he had that gypsy spirit!” Feeling like I had the blessing of my ancestors to be adventurous made me proud. It made me feel connected. We can create this for our children also.

Last September, Familysearch.org published an article about the benefits of family history. The article expanded on Identity, Connection, Compassion, Resilience, Selflessness, and Self Worth. These are all qualities we should be focused on helping our third culture children to achieve.

Knowing our cultural background and where we came from can help us develop a strong sense of who we really are. The way we relate to our family stories and create our own narratives about ourselves helps establish our unique, authentic core identity.

So what does that look like in a practical way? Of course we can help our children prepare names to take to the temple, and do research in traditional ways, but there are small and simple things we can encourage also. Introducing your child to keeping their own history through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and blogging helps them tell their story, building that sense of identity. Last week for Family Home Evening we just took five minutes to share an ancestry spotlight of old photos, then had one child share his favorite memory from our family scrapbooks. Both things took minimal effort and time, but gave our children an anchor, past and present.

Lastly, we are promised strength from beyond the veil as we do family history work. Our ancestors are cheering us on in the quest to raise these special spirits.

John A Widstoe

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