“A person is always situated in a context, relating to what is above and below, right and left, and front and back. This context determines his or her position. Your life will turn out better or worse depending on whether you properly create relationships with those above you and below you, with those to your right and to your left, in front of you and in back of you.” From True Families: Gateway to Heaven (p 1)   This passage might be hard for a nine year old to understand, much less a seven year old or a three year old. So to break it down, we made a little family tree to be able to explain it in very specific terms. As always, we decided that the best way to do this was by making it a family craft activity! This was how it went for us:
  1. Since it was Christmas season, our family tree took the shape of a Christmas tree. First I took a large piece of paper and cut out a Christmas tree shape and had the kids draw and cut out ornament shapes from colorful paper to decorate the tree.
  2. My daughter made the star at the top and drew in glittery gold letters “God.” A good start.
  3. We then wrote the names of our (immediate) family members onto post-it notes and put them on our trees. We left space so that we could add in our extended family members in at a later time (another project!)
  4. We used special glittery pink and silver washi tape to draw out the lines of connection between each family member. Right now there are blank spaces but we will be filling in those soon.
  5. One further step – we had every person write down what they were grateful for. Our three year old was grateful for our family and, fittingly, Washi tape. 
Once we completed this tree, we could point to each line and name and say to Emily, “You are the older sister of your three younger siblings; the daughter of mama and papa; the granddaughter of grandpa and grandma on both papa and mama’s sides; and then niece of your aunts, uncles; cousin of your cousins, etc. That is your context.” Emily’s eyes lit up and she exclaimed,”Ahhh…!” What was wonderful was that, as comparatively big as our family might be with four kids, when we looked at our extended family tree we could see the more extensive network of loving bonds that went outwards to our cousins, aunts, uncle and grandparents. Looking at the pink and silver lines on our tree, we could see those above, below, left, right, front and back, our little microcosm became that much more complex and wonderful. Personally, I grew up in a small family with very little contact with my relatives as my parents had immigrated to the United States before I was born. This being as such, I never had strong ties or relationships with my grandparents and cousins and so I never understood the wonderful world of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmas and grandpas. Now as a parent, I’m very happy that my children have very strong bonds of love and trust with their relatives and hope to keep them strong through constant communication and exchange. This is our family tree at the moment. What would your family tree look like? Happy Holidays!