Everyone has a story. Old or young, everyone’s life story is worth preserving and sharing. We learn from our own stories. Story is a common theme here on #familyhistoryfriday — the benefits of family stories, what your family’s history has to do with your everyday life, using keepsakes to tell family stories, healing from grief through family stories, building self-esteem through family stories, and more. But have you ever thought about recording your kids’ stories? Their stories as kids are the foundation of their life stories.
Start With What You Know
When my kids were babies, I had a little page in their baby books where I would keep track of their “firsts”. It was pretty easy to make a note of growth and monumental achievements when I was with them all the time. I made another page so I could write their “personal history”–it was like writing in their journal for them. I had a new personal history page for each year. I wrote things such as the funny way they pronounced words and bits of their personalities I could easily see (like being helpful or organized). I tried to write a few sentences every month.
If you are past the baby stage, you can still start with what you know. It’s important to have a written record of what you know about them. Especially in teenage years, people often lose sight of their own selves. Tell your child in a letter or book: “This is what I know about you.”
When I was 15 years old, my best friend’s mom died. She left behind 7 children, ages 1-17. It was as devastating as it sounds. But my best friend’s mother also left behind letters she had written for each of her children. They had something from her to keep with them. This is something all of us can do for our children. Start with what you know about them–things they may not see or remember or appreciate. You never know how meaningful it can be right now on a hard day or how much they may depend on it in the future.
Next, Write What They Know
I was a natural journal-writer (literally from the time I could write), but most people I know aren’t. If your children keep journals, they are not only preserving their own story but they are also giving themselves something to look back at and learn from. That’s honestly half the value of a written record. Yes, someone in the future may read it, but most of all you will be able to learn from it. Children benefit from looking back at their own experiences, seeing their growth, being grateful, and learning from what they’ve done.
When my kids were younger, I encouraged them to pull out their journals on Sunday afternoons and just write a little something each week. If your kids don’t enjoy writing or are too young, there are some great ideas out there for journaling prompts. I personally loved the resource from Nina over at Sleeping Should Be Easy. She has put together 18 fantastic questions to ask instead of the usual “How was school?” since it’s most often answered with “good.” You can find her 18 questions at this link. In addition to being useful every day, they would be a great start to writing your child’s story.
Here are a couple of writing prompts that can help you tell your child’s story.
As kids get older, it can be harder to get much out of “How was your day?”-type questions. I find I am a pretty good conversationalist as long as someone else starts the conversation. That doesn’t work particularly well with teenagers. For me, having some go-to conversation starters really helps. The friendly but probing questions are intended to create thoughtful responses. I like this list of 50 from P&G Everyday.
A few years ago at a church women’s meeting, I was given a jar of journaling prompts. Not long after that, I decided they would make great conversation starters! So I made this deck of playing cards with all those questions on it. The *deck of cards actually stays on our kitchen table with the salt and pepper and napkins! When the conversation isn’t flowing so well at the dinner table, I open the box and read a question. We just go around the table with our answers. Sometimes these lead to longer conversations, and sometimes they don’t, but we talk. We interact and get to know each other a little better.
Conversation starters are another good way to tell your child’s story.
What Their Own Stories Do For Kids
When kids connect with their own selves and their own stories, they own their history and learn about themselves. This creates a stronger sense of self. It’s empowering. Kids need to be encouraged, told what they’re good at, and develop a sense of worth. Recording their own stories, thoughts, experiences, and feelings is a simple way to do this that can have lasting impact.
Remember as a kid when you wanted to be famous? Telling a child’s story makes him or her feel famous. Putting her own picture on the front of a storybook or keeping a journal or history that he can go back and read is a true and lasting gift.
Giving your children their own stories sets them on their way to preserving their own stories in the future. They can connect with their own selves and their family and the world around them in ways they don’t get from electronics or peers. Real family connections make all the difference.
The Dinner Conversation cards can be personalized and ordered at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise by clicking “template gallery” at the upper right, then entering 77986 (the template number) in the search field. They come in a plastic case. Cards have a high gloss finish and rounded corners. Similar products are templates 113284, 126365, and 78253. The Board Book shown is available at the same website. Click “template gallery” then enter 141038 (the template number) in the search field. A similar book is template 141230. Instructions for using Heritage Makers can be found here.
- Chaet, Heather. (2017). P&G everyday. Retrieved from https://www.pgeveryday.com/family/parenting/article/50-questions-to-ask-your-kids
- Garcia, Nina. (2017). Sleeping Should Be Easy. Retrieved from https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/2014/11/17/ask-about-school/
- Robinson, Wendy. (2014). P&G everyday. Retrieved from https://www.pgeveryday.com/family/parenting/article/10-great-questions-to-ask-your-kids-every-year
- Scholastic.com. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/more-activities/9-cool-questions-to-ask-your-kid