Developing your Family by Rachel Heitman




Developing your Family

In my family, we love to tell stories. The time that….and remember when’s often reflect our love for each other and the intimacy that families share. By rehashing history and sharing memories we forge connections and build the bond of unity.

In Disney’s movie Encanto, the family is held together by an eternally lit magical candle that keeps them safe and provides each family member a special gift or power. Everyone except the heroine Mirabel. With no tangible powers, Mirabel often feels like an outsider in an extraordinary family. She struggles to find her place and her purpose amongst people who appear to have both. We learn through that the story that what she believes and the reality of how people really feel is very different. We, the audience learn along with Mirabel that while her siblings’ gifts look wonderful, they come at a cost.


Luisa has the gift of a strength-every donkey, and every chore is on Luisa’s shoulders. She confides to Mirabel that she doesn’t always feel that strong and that sometimes she just isn’t ok. Isabella can conjure flowers and beauty just by breathing-but she too confides that the pressure of being perfect is a burden and that she wishes she could be free to make mistakes.


Encanto has been dissected by critics far more insightful than me. As a family counselor, the message that resonated with me about Encanto is the message of the family as its own character. The family Madrigal has gotten stuck in the old narrative and in old family roles. The Abuela’s unresolved story and fear were holding the family back from the growth and change it needed. It took Mirabel acknowledging and exposing the cracks for the healing to begin.


I want to suggest one way to bind our family together is to see where our wounds show up in our parenting. Were you the Luisa, the Isabella, the Bruno, or the Mirabel?  Each character represents a gift but with each gift comes the belief that we must fulfill a role in the family to be worthy of love. What stories mold the way you see your role in the family? What stories shape the way you see your children?


Finally, I urge you to be mindful of what stories we tell about each other. Does one child get labeled the klutz, the smart one, or the easy one?  Notice changes in each other. Allow your family to grow, allow the story of yourself to change. When the foundation is strong the doors and windows can freely open and close.

Rachel Heitman