Posted May 11, 2015 by jimhigley
Family crests date back to the Middle Ages in Europe – and were part of a custom which helped introduce knights at competitions and help spectators distinguish each knight by the design adorning his shield. A family “trademark” of sorts, these crests were passed down by men to their firstborn male offspring as part of an honored custom in families for years.
Sometimes referred to as a “coat of arms” – family crests were adorned with symbols cherished by the family to send a message to all who saw it.
While it’s likely you don’t have a knight in your clan, I pose the question:
When my children were younger, we actually created our own family crest as part of an exercise to identify our shared family values, develop a common “language”, and – hold each other accountable for the way we treated each other and the outside world.
At the time my children ranged in age from 10 to 17 – a spectrum of emotional development that often caused conflict. It was the crest – and a very wise family counselor – that helped us find our united coat of arms.
“Think of your family crest as the message you’d want everyone to see when they knock on your front door,” the counselor told us. “It should be full of the things your family – each and every one of you – hold close to your heart.” He further went on to explain that our family crest was our value system. It was road map for living as a family.
“It’s also what you want every person who experiences your family – and each of you individually – to intuitively understand about the Higley family.”
It was a concept I instantly embraced. As did each of my three children.
Our process for agreeing on the specific symbols of our family crest was democratic and respectful. Each of us presented the four things we valued most – or felt represented our family the best – to each other. We used words. We used drawings. We used examples. And we plastered a wall with sheets of paper full of ideas and examples.
No one idea was shot down. Rule #1 was that every idea had value.
And it was through that brainstorming we not only discovered the six components of our family crest (Rule #2 was that the crest contain at least one idea from each family member) – but we also experienced a renewed way to communicate and value each other.
This memory is part of a series of stories I’m sharing during the months of May and June – highlighting the importance of connecting with our children. These memories are brought to you by the wonderful folks at Kimberly-Clark who have compensated me for my writing. All opinions are my own.