telling family stories

I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled “The Stories That Bind Us” by Bruce Feiler. In this article he reported on some research he had done into what makes successful and happy families. After conducting his research he found a direct link to a strong family narrative and success in families. Here are some of his research findings.

Children who knew a lot about their families:
  • Tended to do better than other children when they faced challenges.
  • Proved to be more resilient and able to moderate the effects of stress.
  • Had a stronger sense of control over their lives.
  • Had higher self-esteem.
  • Believed that their family functioned successfully.
  • Felt that they belonged to something larger than themselves.

Why do stories help children? From hearing family stories, children learn how to deal with various situations in life. A family’s stories create a “unifying narrative” or pattern.  For example, family narratives might include: overcoming adversity, doing what’s right, and helping other people in times of need.  The most helpful narratives reinforce that family members were able to get through many ups and downs as best they could with varying degrees of success.

What kinds of stories should we tell in our families?

  • Tell stories whenever possible (at the dinner table, in the car, and so on).Tell stories of all kinds, from simple or humorous to profound.
  • Tells stories that include life’s ups and downs but show a positive outcome over time and how the family was able to overcome difficulties.
Some of my husband’s extended family looking at old photos and sharing stories at a family reunion last summer
In Mr. Feiler’s own words, “The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

How lucky are we, as scrapbookers, that we are already preserving memories, and documenting these vital stories in our albums. What a gift to our families! The challenge is to remember to get them out and read them. That’s where we’ll see the maximum benefit from our efforts as story tellers. Now go gather your family, pull down one of your favorite albums, and let the story telling begin!

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