2 December 2013 07:20 AM

Keep Telling Stories

by rbavaria

Our family story tellers are treasures. The grandparents, the affable uncles, the history-minded aunts, the cousins who fill in the gaps of generational memories – they’re all treasures who entertain, inspire, and encourage us.  

Become one of them.  

It’s not that hard, and our kids will love you for it.

I’ve written before about kids interviewing grandparents and other older relatives  to learn about their histories and their places in those histories.  It’s good for kids, and it’s good for grandparents.  But there’s no reason why parents and kids can’t keep the stories coming.  Kids are more interested than they let on, and we parents know more stories than we realize.

There’s nothing more welcoming than a sincere, “Come sit here by me for a while, and let’s talk.”  Watch how kids respond when they know you really mean it, that they’ll hear a good story, and that you’ll listen to their stories.

Here are some ideas for stories that can get you started.  

  1. Family stories. Pique kids’ interest in their family by learning as much as you can about maternal and paternal relatives. Kids love to feel a  part of groups, and there’s no more important group than family. Research interesting (“Did you know Grammy Jones was the first woman sheriff in her town?”), amusing (“Great Uncle Phil lost his swim trunks after his high-dive at the Fourth of July competitions – right in front of the mayor!”), and informative family lore (“Cousin Louise has written a website about our family’s immigration to the U.S. in the early 20th century. We should ask her to tell us about it.”)
  2. Lesson-learned stories.  Kids learn from our mistakes when we’re honest and not too preachy about them. A well-timed “teachable moment” story about the time we messed up an important test because we didn’t study enough can be worth its weight in gold.
  3. Twice-told stories. Kids love hearing favorite bedtime stories over and over again, why not favorite family stories? How Mommy and Daddy met, the day I was born, the snowstorm that caved in the porch roof, rescuing Fido from the pound, the best Halloween costume ever – these are all as enjoyable the tenth time as they were the first. Plus, kids get proficient in the story and then someday tell their kids, keeping the stories and their characters alive for another generation.
  4. Neighborhood stories. Just as they love being a part of a family, kids love being a part of a community. Every neighborhood has stories. Tell stories about the history of your neighborhood, what it was like years ago, memorable neighbors, and interesting occurrences.  If you’re new to your neighborhood, do a little research together.
  5. Proud stories. Tell kids about the things that make you proud.  The championship softball season.  The time you surprised everyone, no more than yourself, when you won the school spelling bee. The Memorial Day when Tia Celeste was naturalized after working so hard to learn all that history. The amazing concert of your favorite entertainer that you’ll never forget.  Pride’s a sin only when it gets in the way of goodness, and you’re creating good memories for your kids here.
  6. Story teller stories. Tell your kids about your favorite story tellers, how they held you spellbound, how they gave you the gift of happy memories, how you’ll never forget them.  Favorite relatives, teachers, clergy, and natural story-telling friends who make you laugh, cry, and think all at the same time.

Our stories can help kids through tough times, especially when the stories are immediately relevant (“I missed an easy fly ball in the ninth inning. I thought I’d never live it down. But I did.”) and sincere.  

Our stories can help develop kids’ language arts skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – especially if we write informal “story journals” as a family, read them together occasionally, tell each other stories about interesting things that happen to us every day, and listen, listen, listen.

Kids do that really, really well. Listen. They’re listening all the time. Might as well make it worth their time.


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