Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Telling Family Stories

Because I'm raising sisters, I love to share stories of my three sisters (and brother) growing up. I tell them about how Mom used to pull our hair sooooo tight in braids we'd have tears in our eyes, and the bunk beds my sister Carol and I used to hide from the alligators in our closet. Car vacations and Christmas and the times we all played soccer in the backyard and Maggie would end up crying. They LOVE these stories almost as much as hearing about their own births and name (don't ask me why). And they're fun for me, too.

So I was delighted to find I was doing something GOOD for them by reminiscing! (Score one for me!)

There's an article this month in The Atlantic that highlights the research on family storytelling, and all the benefits to children. They're pretty awesome and include understanding emotions, advanced narrative skills, high self-esteem and self-concepts.

Here's a sample:
Over the last 25 years, a small canon of research on family storytelling shows that when parents share more family stories with their children—especially when they tell those stories in a detailed and responsive way—their children benefit in a host of ways. For instance, experimental studies show that when parents learn to reminisce about everyday events with their preschool children in more detailed ways, their children tell richer, more complete narratives to other adults one to two years later compared to children whose parents didn’t learn the new reminiscing techniques. Children of the parents who learned new ways to reminisce also demonstrate better understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions. These advanced narrative and emotional skills serve children well in the school years when reading complex material and learning to get along with others. In the preteen years, children whose families collaboratively discuss everyday events and family history more often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-concepts. And adolescents with a stronger knowledge of family history have more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Family storytelling can help a child grow into a teen who feels connected to the important people in her life.

Next time I tell them the story of the day Carol had the brilliant idea of riding her bike with her eyes closed, I'll know it's doing some good -- other than embarrassing their auntie. Heh. 

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