Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when children know their family history. One way to teach family history to children is to tell them the stories. Children love to hear stories about themselves, siblings, parents, cousins, and grandparents.
My oldest sister is a master story teller, and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are the beneficiaries of her talents. My children, on the other hand, received a book containing the stories of their ancestors – a book that was put together by my sister. I think it is wonderful to have the stories written down, and I am grateful for this gift from my sister. However, I wish that I had learned the stories and taught them to my children.
Nicole Dyer is a young mother of three children under eight years old, and she shares some ideas on how to teach family history to young children in her article entitled “Finding Everyday Moments to Share Family History with Your Children.”
If a meal passes and all I did was give orders, I feel that I missed an opportunity. In The Secrets of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler notes that a good portion of family mealtime is composed of procedural instructions and requests like “pass the salt.” He recommends that parents try to engage children in about 10 minutes of real talking during meals.
What can parents talk about with their children at dinner? It’s fairly simple to talk about how the day went and plans for the week. Yet I have found that sharing simple stories from personal and family history creates a more meaningful discussion.
To children, anything that happened before they were born is family history…. I try to match the stories to my children’s interests. Some stories are universally interesting, like stories of overcoming hardships, courage, faith, and love.
Sharing personal stories of overcoming trials creates the perfect opportunity for sharing my testimony….
You don’t have to know a lot about your family history to begin sharing stories. Stories from your own life will do. Children will be curious about your days growing up….
Before you decide to give your children a book filled with family history stories, know that researchers have found that talking in person with children about family stories is a crucial ingredient for helping them become resilient.
Bruce Feiler wrote, “Dinner does not cause the benefits… what generates the sense of attachment and emotional toughness is the process of hearing all those old stories and seeing yourself in the larger flow of your family. In other words, what we think of as family dinner is not really about the dinner. It’s about the family.”
Feeding children with family stories not only makes mealtime more enjoyable, but it empowers them to face challenges with strength. The act of telling stories together creates bonding experiences that make children feel loved and feel part of something. They belong. They are loved. They are propelled forward by the power of their family’s past.
There is much more in Dyer’s article, including ideas of ways to find stories to share. I encourage you to follow this link to find the article and to strengthen your family. Eating dinner together as a family is essential to building happy and strong families. Sharing stories from family history at the dinner table can make families even stronger and more resilient. We can use family history to strengthen our families, communities, and nations.