You’re probably not familiar with genograms unless you have a background in psychology. Genograms are a way that was created to plot out family relationships, patterns and other issues and experiences that could impact a person’s life. Think of it as a family tree with the stories attached. So what does this have to do with Christian parenting? Because the way you parent your children is influenced by the way you were parented and things that happened during your formative years.
Whether we realize it or not, we often do the same things our parents did. If we disagreed strongly with some of their parenting choices, we may do the opposite, thinking that is the better solution. All of this is done with often very little realization of what is happening.
Christian parents need to be extremely intentional in their parenting choices. They need to have their goals in mind (Hopefully, the top goal being raising faithful, productive Christians.), making choices in their parenting that will help them reach those goals.
Since the unintentional is where parents make their most common mistakes, intentional Christian parenting should perhaps start with discovering and acknowledging the things from our own backgrounds that might influence our parenting. These can then be analyzed to help us identify our potential strengths and weaknesses as parents and develop strategies to mitigate any weaknesses.
At Teach One Reach One Ministries, we designed some questions to help you through this process. This is not an actual genogram exercise, although you may recognize some similarities. We encourage you to Google “genogram”, if you want to delve into them more deeply and work with the actual program.
The questions below, contain spiritual questions which are not usually part of a genogram exercise. We have narrowed down the questions to specific experiences, cycles and other dynamics that will help you pinpoint any potential strengths and weaknesses you might have as a parent. We are not psychologists and this is not a formal instrument. Rather it can be used to generate reflection and discussion. If you have concerns about your answers, please contact a licensed Christian psychologist, counselor or therapist to help.
Answer the following questions. There is no answer key, as this is an exercise to encourage you to analyze your family of origin and how it might impact your parenting choices. You will not have to share your answers with anyone, unless you choose to do so.
- Who raised you as a child? These are the adults with whom you lived and who were responsible for your primary care and guidance. If you lived with various caregivers/guardians/parents from birth to age eighteen, list each, your age when living with them and the amount of time you lived with them. Note: If you had a consistent babysitter/nanny for multiple hours a day, several days a week, lasting more than a year, you may wish to include him/her as an influential caregiver.
- Are your birth parents still married to each other? If not, how old were you when the divorce occurred? If you were raised by a couple other than your birth parents, are they still married? If not, how old were you when the divorce occurred?
- If your parents/caregivers divorced, did either remarry? How much time did you spend with each parent/caregiver after the divorce? Did your parents/caregivers frequently fight over custody issues? Did either parent/caregiver have additional children by a spouse other than your parent/caregiver?
- Were you raised by a single parent/caregiver?
- Were you raised by foster parents or in a group home or orphanage? If so, what were the circumstances that placed you there?
- Were you adopted? If so, at what age? What information do you know about your birth parents? Have you met your birth parents? If you have or had a relationship with your birth parents, briefly describe it.
- Did one or more of your adult parents/caregivers die while you were under the age of eighteen? If so, how old were you when he or she died?
- Did you know your grandparents? If so, what was their marital status? List the information for all grandparents who were alive during your youth. Make note of any divorces and remarriages.
- Did any parents, caregivers or grandparents have issues with addiction, chronic or severe health problems, mental health, spending time in prison or anything else that negatively impacted their lives? Briefly describe any issues.
- On average, how much time did you spend with your grandparents?
- Describe your relationship with each parent, caregiver and grandparent and their relationships with each other in brief (including the relationship between your paternal and maternal grandparents if they knew each other). Use the terms indifferent, distant, estranged, cordial, affectionate, cold, securely attached, insecurely attached, very close, conflict, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect if they apply.
- Describe how each of your caregivers guided your attitudes and behavior using the terms verbal correction, no correction, loving guidance, lectures, example setting, corporal punishment, yelling, cursing, beating, physical abuse, extreme criticism, emotional abuse, withholding approval, withholding affection, withholding food, isolation if they apply.
- Were you raised with siblings? If so list all of the children in your family (including you) in birth order, noting age differences between siblings.
- Briefly describe your relationship with each sibling, both as children and as adults, using the terms close, very close, cordial, distant, conflictual, no relationship if they apply.
- Briefly describe the relationship each of your caregivers and grandparents have (had) with God. Use terms like Christian, (denomination name), Christian in identity only, attended worship, Easter and Christmas only, active, productive, Bible reader, prayer, served others regularly, shared faith regularly, (religion name, if other than Christian), agnostic, atheist if they apply.
- Briefly describe any influence each parent, caretaker and/or grandparent had on your spiritual life.
- List anything significant in your life that you believe might have an impact on your parenting choices. These could include experiences, observations, education, things you have heard or read, etc.
- Looking at the information above, what patterns, strengths, and/or weaknesses do you see that might impact your parenting choices?
- If you would like to explore this topic in more depth, you can research genograms and attach your genogram drawing.