Family Stories

I recently attended a seminar at a Family History Center. The keynote speaker was a storyteller who quoted from an article titled “The Stories that Bind us” published on the National Storytelling Network. A psychologist, Dr. Duke, from Emory University was asked to do a study on the place of myth and rituals in American family life. Studying children, and consulting with other psychologists, he noted that children who knew more about their own families tended to do better when faced with challenges.

Two months after the initial study, 9/11 happened and everyone was horrified at the destruction and death inflicted on the nation. Dr. Duke and his colleagues went back to their study and reassessed the children with a battery of tests. Once again he concluded that children “who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

How can something as simple as a family story help a child overcome a small disappointment, or a major terrorist attack? 

Dr. Duke explained. “The answer has to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family.”

Our family discussions at the dinner table, in the living room, in the car are the shared experiences that unite us. We need to talk to our children. We need to share our stories of disappointments, achievements, failures, embarrassments, regrets, and hopes. This gift of story helps children know that life can go on even after a success, a failure, an achievement, or a disappointment. It helps us to laugh at ourselves, and love ourselves more.

The Stories that Bind Us

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