Strengthen Family Bonds with Stories

This year share some family stories at your holiday celebrations. It’s a wonderful low-cost form of entertainment and a great way to instill in your grandchildren a sense of identity and connection to their heritage.

Holiday gatherings are natural settings for sharing stories. People are upbeat and haven’t seen each other for a while and the opportunity to reminisce with multiple generations can provide enjoyment and inspiration for all ages. The interest in sharing and preserving family stories has grown in popularity as witnessed by the increase in genealogy websites and family blogs.

Grandparents play a vital role in passing down family stories to the next generation. By sharing your stories you help your grandchildren learn who they are and what’s important to their family. They gain a sense of identity and connectedness that strengthens family bonds. Listening to stories is a wonderful way to de-stress, and as people share memories, they trigger forgotten ones in their listeners.

Every human being is a walking collection of stories and sharing them with your grandchildren is a life affirming connection between the generations. Grandchildren especially love hearing about meaningful events that happened to their parents. It gives them a chance to see their parents from a new perspective. Family stories also provide an opportunity to keep alive the memories of departed family members.

If you’d like to start a new tradition of sharing stories this year, talk it over with a few family members who will be attending your celebration. During a holiday get-together it’s best to think of the activity as a light-hearted form of entertainment. Enjoy the moment of storytelling rather, than trying to make it a structured collecting of family history with tape recorders and note takers. Keep some paper handy and jot notes for future interviews if you discover some great family storytellers and historians in the group.

When you invite your guests, let them know that part of the celebration will be sharing memories. Suggest they bring a photo or memento of a favorite family memory. That way, they have some time to think about a story to share. If you call them “memories,” it won’t be so intimidating to the guests. If some people are shy about sharing stories about themselves, ask them to talk about their parents or grandparents instead. Once they get started it’s easier to shift to their own lives.

When the meal is over, invite everyone to gather in a circle and get comfortable. Prepare some simple questions on slips of paper, put them in a bowl, and let people select a question to get the process going.

If you’d like the children to participate, you could start with one question that everyone answers, e.g., “What was the best gift you ever received?” The stories will reveal how gifts have changed over the years. Some examples of holiday-related questions are:

  • What is your favorite holiday memory?
  • What is your funniest holiday memory?
  • What is your favorite holiday food?
  • What is your favorite holiday tradition?
  • When was a time when you were far from home for the holidays?

If you want to share stories about other aspects of life, consider using some of the questions below. Again, to involve young children, you could select questions like:

  • What did/do you like best about school?
  • What was/is your favorite toy?
  • When did you get the messiest?
  • Which book made you cry?
  • What was your hardest decision?
  • What were the worst shoes you ever had?
  • Did you ever play a trick on someone?
  • What was special about your first pet?
  • What did you think the future would be like when you were a child?
  • What was the best story someone told you?
  • Who influenced you without you knowing?
  • When did you feel like a grownup?
  • What was the most dangerous fun you had?
  • What was your best family vacation?

By looking at life experiences and remembering emotions you may not have thought about for many years, you can evoke wonderful stories to delight your family and create a memorable holiday for all. As author Chase Collins says in her book, Tell Me a Story, “stories that spring from your spirit and your love, will help your children and grandchildren sense their own worthiness and perhaps sense a worthiness in the broader sweep of the human race.”

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