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The Importance of Telling Family Stories

Note from Lisa: I found this story to be interesting. I hope you do as well no matter what your family make-up is we all have stories to tell and pictures to share!

The Importance of Telling Family Stories

Published October 30, 2006 by:
With the scattered and fragmented state of the modern family, things have been both lost and gained. While we've gained and expanded idea of what family actually is and, for many families, a less gender-biased family life, we may have also lost connections with extended members and our unique family "lore." With divorces and remarriage, our family stories can become even more scattered and we may have a hard time explaining our family "culture" or the way our family is unique and special to younger generations.

Just because times have changed, we don't have to give up on our family stories. In fact, it may be more important than ever to keep extended family and friends vibrant and a part of our daily lives through the stories we tell. Here are some suggestions for keeping storytelling integral in maintaining strong families.

It can be hard with divorceand separation to feel comfortable telling stories from "before" - especially if a separation has been painful or less than amicable. For children, and even for ourselves, it can be important to keep these stories alive and part of family discussions. Parents may just have to swallow this discomfort and participate in the story about the time the (then intact) family dropped the Christmas tree down the hill or when Aunt Sue (from your former in-laws) came for the extended visit.

Things can become lopsided when parts of the stories are left out or big chunks of family lore just become "off limits". Kids pick up on that and may feel that parts and pieces of themselves which may have come from those times or are similar to other relatives are also undesirable. One of the most positive aspects of telling family stories is that we include the good, the bad and the ugly - the entire whole of a family's history can be represented to paint a complete picture of how the family has changed, morphed and adapted over the generations. 

While not every topic belongs at the dinner table and judgment should be used in telling age-appropriate versions of our stories, we also shouldn't just tell of the good and happy times. Remember the stories our own grandparents and great-grandparents told of wars and depression and other painful and shaping events. They have become integrated into how we think of ourselves in the big scheme of things and have helped shaped our own identities.

When family members have joined the family by marriage or adoption, it is important to make room and incorporate their own stories and heritage into the family lore. If there is always discussion of how each of the grandchildren were born, but never how little Janey came to the family via adoption from China- then the family is not including and representing all its members.

A family is not a static entity, and neither should be the stories and relationships within it. As a static, vibrant, living orb of connection, family stories should reflect change and life's realities and be allowed to develop and grow organically to reflect a changing family. Stories are important - whether we tell them in our annual newsletters, in person or over the phone. Connecting to one another through our family lore is as important now as it has ever been.

Telling family stories through photos and photo albums can bring both joy and heartache but that is the true reflection of life.  I hope each one of you with families be it traditional, blended, or fragmented continue to tell your families stories so that no child has gaps in their heritage.  We are who we are through the experiences God brings us through.  May God bless you through your family stories!  


6M Memories and More by Lisa Morgan

Monday, March 22, 2010