Author’s note to newcomers: Our family of origin—or the culture in our own homes—has a considerable impact on our work, our rest, the lens through which we interpret relationships, our kids, our conversation, our spirituality, even our sex life (betcha didn’t think you’d find them in there!).
Plus, I just think it’s plain interesting to understand where we came from—as someone who lives in a different culture that’s helped me better understand my own. It’s helped me be more gracious, more wise, more self-knowledgeable (which helps me be more aware in my relationship with God), and hopefully more holy.
Remember when using these to imagine tacking on the end of every question, Why? and How did this affect you and/or your family?
- Who were/are the “heroes” of your family? Who were held up as examples to follow? Who do you, your parents, and/or siblings respect? How did these reflect what was valuable to your family?
- What was funny to your family? (Humor affects us!) Did your family (even subtly) make fun of anyone? Who are the funnier members of your family?
- How would you describe your family’s worldview towards sex? What did they call sex and private parts? What were the unspoken attitudes toward sexuality? Did it differ between your mom and dad? When was sex okay and not okay? How did they respond to abusive or misused sex within or outside of the family? (To be clear, not discussing it is still a response.)
- What were the roles of children? Are they the center of interactions, vacations, etc.? Are they for work, for discipline? Are they a nuisance? A delight? Has their reaction to kids changed as they’ve aged, or as you’ve had children?
- Were there any people significant to your family’s life that were not actually family members? Who were they, and why were they significant? How often did you see them?
- Describe your family’s relationship with extended family. How did they react to family get-togethers (eye-rolling, excitement, jokes, avoidance, extensive preparation or expense, etc.)? Were there any extended family members that were particularly distant to your nuclear family, or particularly close? Do you understand the backstory to these reactions? What was the high point for you of family get-togethers?
- What aspects of your family might not be considered mainstream? For example, perhaps your father stayed home while your mother worked, or your father was absent, or you moved a lot with the military. Or more lightheartedly and positively, for example, my family sang a lot in the car together. My parents kissed in the kitchen and held hands while walking. And when they didn’t, we joke about my dad striding briskly ahead of us, ever the fearless leader. He was even known to turn a cartwheel in the parking lot. (I love that!)
- Describe your family’s pet peeves. What kinds of people lost their respect? Did they have any enemies—and why?
- Describe the landscape and community where you grew up: the climate, the neighborhood, the culture of your city and locality. What did your community value? Of what economic class and political party were they? Did your family generally agree or disagree with these values?
- What did your family spend money on? What did they not spend money on? What did they save for (or did they save)?
- Is your family generally more introverted or extroverted? Driven or relaxed? Neat or messy? Night owls or morning people? Outdoorsy or indoorsy? Transient or with roots? City or country? Do they host large gatherings or small—or do they host at all? (Do they like Dr. Seuss? Juuust kidding.)
- What kind of music did your parents/siblings listen to, and why?
What do you love about your family of origin–or what are you especially thankful for?