How family stories enrich children

Many of us remember the time we spent with our parents and grandparents where an idyllic hour would be filled with family stories. Each story would be a wealth of their experiences and perspectives of certain events, incidents and people. The stories, depending upon the teller would be filled with mirth, learning and eventually got everyone to reflect. The listeners and the storytellers, both felt refreshed after.

Today, with my own children growing up in a world where time is slipping away faster, getting all of us together as a family is harder than before.  I realized how despite the changing way of life it was important for me to share family stories with my children. I felt these stories brought my children closer to my roots. They asked questions about the times gone by and tried hard to imagine the childhood and growing years of their parents and grandparents. Our meals would become long and extended because the stories were yet to finish!

As parents, it is valuable to share stories according to the age and level of understanding of our child. When they are toddlers they enjoy hearing stories of the kind of games their grandparents played, like that of making a handmade catapult or rag doll. Or stories about our adventures as little children.  The simplicity of life comes out through these narratives. 

Older children like to hear stories of family members gone by.  In sharing these stories, we bring alive our ancestors for that brief time and also create a sense of a bigger family for our children.

As our children become young adults, school and college stories of our own and others in our family, close as well as extended, make our children see us with fresh eyes. When we share with honesty and vulnerability, our fun, trials, attempts, failures and regrets, they are able to connect with us on the same plane. They envision a bigger picture, one that is not a movie, a book, or a poem, but a picture from their own families. They come to realize that everyone goes through ups and downs and having a narrative of it all is the only truth of the matter.

Family stories for adult children can also come packaged in different forms like, family recipes, quick do it yourself fixes around the house, a passed-on sari, toy furniture, etc. All these will come accompanied with a story.

So, as we see, there are many stories that each of us have tucked away in our memories. And at each age our children are ready for different family stories. Irrespective of the age of the child, and the nature of the story, the benefits are immense. These stories build a sense of belonging to the family we come from. Hearing about the lives of family members lived with courage and simplicity, builds in the next generation a resilience that can be passed on.   

And just like our parents and their parents before them, we cannot overlook how much the teller herself benefits from sharing these narratives. For me, passing on these stories to my children has strengthened the bond between past and future generations. 


Author: Mrinalini Banerjea is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connections in families.