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Saturday July 4, 2020 stacysue

Family Thumbprints: Integrating Relationships and Family Occupations

Who is your family? How are you each connected? What defines your relationships? In what ways do the interactions attract or divert? And how do these relationships create the family occupations that become meaningful? And why?


Each family has a culture unique to itself.


Your family’s interactions, routines and rituals or family environment embody a rich awareness of the family culture and a sense of your very own “family thumbprint.” Is your family quiet? Calm? Neat? Scattered? Boisterous? Turbulent? Do you have a sense of deep relationships, or are you more harried in interactions? Where and how is your sense of belonging defined? Does your family prefer a vacation in the Bahamas or a back-yard barbeque with a game of tag? Or both? And are your basic needs met?  Certainly, socioeconomic position may play a role that activity or environment does not fully define.


What defines your family even more are the patterns within the relationships that bind and characterize your family entity. These are the crevices in the family thumbprint.


Distinctive and varied as every fingerprint. There is a culture as whole, yet within that structure, there are individualities that define each and every person. We know that no two thumbprints are the same. How does that difference translate to relationships within your family’s thumbprint?


Each child, each family member has their own temperament and patterns of nervous system responses. Early histories as far back as in-utero experiences can impact development. Life stories are constructed in the outside world. Some experiences in the environment are for the better, and others pose significant challenges. The composition of early relationships and how this may influence stress responses is fundamental. There may be “ghosts” hidden in the stories of the past that are underlying which impact adult interaction responses. Some lines in thumbprints are filtered with past and present traumas. Where there is stability we have better chance of resiliency, but with instability, there is still time for the hope of aligning connection and growth. These relational configurations come to define each family member, creating channels and ripples embedded in unique individual thumbprints too.


There are likes and dislikes lingering around your family. Ways of processing senses in the world greatly impact interactions. If life is too loud, too fast perhaps your child is easily provoked, and in exasperation, does not participate in family outing. Or perhaps they are characterized as the dare devil, first to climb to the top of the jungle gym or ride the colossal roller coaster. Is there a tendency to be argumentative, withdraw in fear or move forward with confidence, encountering new endeavors showing bravery in the face of a challenge?


There are proclivities to art or sciences. Athleticism or musicality? Gentile or extravagant? Do you have a scientist? A mathematician? A writer? Is your child fascinated with the wheels on a car or a spinning fan above? Does your child embody the turtle or the hare? Is your child extremely verbose, or do they communicate with a smiles, or a glimmer? Or is there some combination or permutation of all of the above?


Temperaments, preferences and variations on stress responses and processing of sensory information impact a child’s ability to be present, and to engage and to “be” part of the family while at the same time they define their own niche.


Now let’s think about yourselves as caregivers. These same characteristics that we consider in children are present in adults. How do the individuality and idiosyncrasies of each person “match?” Are you a quiet mother with a highly active child? What needs to be imparted? What if both parent and child are withdrawn, or both highly sensitive to the worlds around them? Do your interests align? Are your nervous system response patterns the same or different? Each caregiver creates a dual dynamic and then multi-modal interaction within each relationship. Siblings can offer even more variation to the dynamics within ages, stages and birth order. Creating myriads of combinations of interactions as the child grows and as the family blossoms or withers and transforms through the seasons of life. We must distinctly understand and work toward recognition and understanding and rejoice in the differences. How do we begin to create harmony and synchrony with variance?


Amidst the joys, the work of family life can be trying. Family engagement in life, constructed of the routine and rituals which surround family occupations are bound or unwound by the interactions within the relationships defined by individual thumb prints.


There is a beautiful defined architecture to these thumbprints, so unique to each individual, profound and impactful on one another. How do the “lines” in each thumb print, the individual differences complement? How do they dovetail? Or in reality, do they misalign even as much as dissonance in a musicality or the screech of nails chalkboard? Finding congruence in relationships is the challenge, learning to build adaptability is where the fruitful work transpires. We work to resolve the discord, and build the reflective awareness and understanding to make sense of the many reasons for our behaviors, defined by each characteristics of family members so that the outcome, while most times not the resounding symphony, exists as a piece music with occasional disparities remaining idiosyncratic to each family to engage together. We create clasped hands with appreciation of individuality of each and every thumbprint. Within the ebbs and flows of life events, activities and changes throughout the lifespan-we attune. Knowing these distinct thumbprints integrates caregiver-child relationships and a “family thumbprint” emerges within the rhythms of evolving family life.




Author: Stacy Sue Rosello, MA, OTR/L

Founder, Embrace the Child, ® Ltd.

Editor: Grace Rosello, BA

Copyright © 2020 Stacy Sue Rosello



I am thoughtfully and gratefully referencing my chapter with 2 dear people who have had an amazing influence on my life and work.


Rosello, S.S., Honaker, D. & Salazar R. (2016). Putting Families First: Family Occupations and Family-

         Centered Therapy. In Wagenfield, A., Kaldenbrer, J. & Honaker, D. (Eds). Slack.

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