At #familyhistoryfriday here on Evolve, we talk a lot about family stories and what they do for us. We’ve talked about how knowing family stories gives us appreciation and perspective and how kids who know family stories are more resilient, deal better with adversity, and have higher self-esteem. Both kids and adults need these things today more than ever before. But did you know there’s another reason family stories make a difference to kids? Family stories combat teenage entitlement.
We Have Everything
I talked to a friend recently who was in an online meeting with teachers from all over the world. These teachers teach an early-morning scripture class to teenagers before school. When the teachers discussed their needs, a lot of the American teachers said they would like to have even more access to electronics than they do now– more TV monitors with HDMI connections to show inspirational videos from their laptops, maybe even iPads for all their students. One teacher from Africa asked if his class could please have pencils provided because the students in his class can’t afford to buy their own pencils.
Wow. We have everything. Comfort can quickly lead to a feeling that we need or deserve or have to have anything we can think of. Teenagers are still learning and growing, so they can be easily affected by a feeling of entitlement. “Entitled” is defined as:
which often translates to “I need an iPhone 7″ or “ALL my 16-year-old friends have their own cars, so I should have one, too.”
Combating Teenage Entitlement with Family Stories
I recently read a wonderful article by Heather Mecham called “One Thing Youth Leaders Can Do to Combat Teenage Entitlement.” She was reporting on a conference she had attended where parenting experts Richard and Linda Eyre had spoken. They shared how their kids’ most-requested bedtime stories were family stories. They discovered as they filled their children’s hearts with family narrative, their kids made connections and, as Heather Mecham wrote, this helped the kids take ownership of their families.
Ownership is the opposite of entitlement. ~Heather Mecham
Family stories had a strengthening effect on the kids, but they also helped the kids know that they belong. They owned their families. This allowed the kids to realize that they could be courageous like Grandpa Dean or have moxie like Grandma Elizabeth. Because they all belonged to each other. They were made of the same cloth.
We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within us inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories, and future promise.” ~Edward Sellner
Recording Family Stories to Share
I don’t know about you, but even the most meaningful stories fade in my head over time. Writing them down helps me remember details, and it helps me keep them alive. I’ve found myself at times wanting to encourage my children (or give them some perspective) using our family’s narrative, and if it weren’t for the written record, I wouldn’t have an actual source of family stories to go to and choose from.
I know I’m a lucky one– I have quite a few ancestors who recorded a few pages worth of their life stories. Many of them have pictures to go along with their life stories. I had been given typed copies of these stories by my parents years ago, and although I sort of knew a few of the stories, they sat in a file folder for quite a while. After I had kids, I wanted to make those stories more accessible, so I decided to compile and publish them. I did this in both hardbound books and magazine-style.
This hardbound book is of my mom’s side of the family. There’s one picture and one person’s life story on each page. I made this one when my kids were little so that they could have bite-sized family stories. In some cases, all we know about a person was that he was the sheriff in town and loved horses, or that she loved to sing and taught piano and violin lessons, but their stories give my kids something to relate to, a way to belong.
This magazine is a big complication of all the stories I know about the pioneer ancestors I have. These were the folks who were pretty good at writing their own life stories for future generations, so there’s a lot more information here. At about $11 each, the magazine style was a great choice for a whole lot of copies. (My cousins loved them, and my kids and nieces refer to them all the time.)
Having family stories recorded in books like this is a huge key in making them accessible any time. If you didn’t have ancestors who recorded their life stories for you, there are a lot of resources on the internet you can try. Some of them might put you in touch with a distant cousin who knows more about your family member than you do. Here are just a few, but you could certainly Google others.
You can also just start with what you know. These three links have resources to help you record information you already know but might not realize you know!
- Creating Family Stories
- When Should I Write My Life Story?
- Interview Questions to Help Write a Life Story
Not Just For Teenagers
My grandpa was a quiet, gentle, stalwart man with a fun and quirky sense of humor. He passed away when I was a junior in high school. I miss him constantly. Now, almost 30 years later, I really wish he were here to meet my youngest son who is a quiet, gentle, stalwart teenager with a fun and quirky sense of humor. Family stories and stories specifically about my grandpa will introduce my son to him. They provide connections and perspective, not just to combat teenage entitlement, but to give all of us strength. We’ll talk more about the power of stories this month on #familyhistoryfriday.
- Ancestry. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ancestry.com/
- Dictionary.com. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/entitle
- Family Search. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/
- LDS.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/si/seminary/about?lang=eng
- Mecham, Heather. (2016). ldsyouthleadership.com. Retrieved from http://www.ldsyouthleadership.com/1-thing-youth-leaders-can-combat-teenage-entitlement/
- Relative Finder. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.relativefinder.org/#/main