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What kids learn from hearing family stories

From the time a child is in the womb, parents hear all about how important it is to read to their children. It's a well-documented fact that children with parents who read, sing, and talk to them every day develop a better sense of language and self. However, books aren’t the only place these stories can be found. Family stories are equally, if not more, important.

What are family stories?

A song from childhood. A lesson hard-learned. The smell of a grandmother’s perfume. A tale of college glory days and late-night study sessions. Best friends made and lost. Children born and pets loved.

Family stories are whichever stories we’ve kept close throughout the years. They’re the tales that hold special importance to us for any number of reasons. They might be generational stories handed down over the years or even simply rehashing our day.

The key takeaway is that they’re worth sharing, and when it comes to sharing with our children, almost anything goes. Kids love to spend time with their caretakers talking about anything and everything. Remember, even something that seems mundane to you will be brand new to a young child.

mom telling kids a story

The benefits of storytelling for children

There are dozens of ways children can benefit when they hear stories of all kinds. Here are a few of our favorite benefits.

Expanded sense of empathy

Over the last several years, multiple studies have indicated that reading fiction increases our capacity for empathy. When there’s a personal connection to the story, we can expect that capacity runs even deeper.

Shared experiences create a sense of bonding and closeness among family members. Children love to hear about where they came from and glean a deeper understanding of the people they care about most. Even more, kids enjoy interactive stories where they feel invested. Stories about people they know offer built-in investment.

When loved ones talk about their past and memories that made an impact on them, children gain a better understanding of their own history and what shaped the people they care about.

Shared family history

Many people connect with their family through storytelling. When we hear stories about our family, even if we’ve heard them a dozen times before, it creates a sense of belonging and familiarity.

Oral traditions have been a part of the human condition for as long as we’ve been able to speak. Even before we could write, we were passing stories through song and speech. There’s something special about hearing a story spoken aloud, and personal stories hold an appeal that can’t be recreated on a page.

Telling our own family stories means injecting our own feelings into them. That’s something that children can see and hear. The importance of the story becomes clear when they see the way the teller’s eyes light up, the rise and fall of their voice, the facial expressions we make. That’s the personal coming through.

Connect children to their family through stories and they’ll never forget those bonds.

Learning lessons

If there’s one thing every parent wants to pass down to their children, it’s the life lessons they’ve already learned. We want to help them get through life wholly and happily, avoiding many of the mistakes we made along the way.

Unfortunately, every parent also knows that kids are unlikely to internalize the lessons we teach just because we say so. That’s where stories come in. When children hear family stories about experiences that were painful but turned out okay in the end, they can take them to heart more readily.

When telling children your stories, it’s important to know that although kids are resilient and can handle difficult topics – such as those surrounding death or illness – they also need some sort of indication that there’s a silver lining. Share those hard-earned lessons willingly but couch them in a story with a hopeful ending. Let them know how the experiences made you stronger, more compassionate, or a better person.

Not every lesson has to be a hard one, either. Some lessons come with funny stories, or happy ones. Share those too!

Deeper bonds

Study after study shows that any time you spend with your children reduces stress and creates stronger bonds, and sharing stories holds a special place among the preferred activities. You’re forming cherished memories and connecting through togetherness, touch, and speech.

Draw them in even further by engaging them in helping you tell the story. If they were present, let them tell the story from their perspective. If it’s a tale they’ve heard you spin before, ask them what they remember and let them retell it.

If they’d prefer to listen to you speak, that’s fine, too. Even simply listening will help improve their capacity for imagination, along with their vocabulary and speech patterns.

There’s a deep sense of pride and comfort that comes with shared family stories. That sense of shared history and love runs deep, boosting confidence and increasing feelings of belonging.

How to share family stories

Unsure where to start when it comes to making your family stories digestible for your kids? No problem, we’ve got you covered! Here are a few ideas.

Talk about your day at mealtimes

Get into the excellent habit of sharing stories about your day at mealtime. Getting everyone in one place to sit down for a family dinner can be a challenge sometimes, but the benefits are absolutely worth it.

You don’t always have to talk about past tales or family history. Simply get into the routine of talking about what happened to each of you that day. What stood out? What stayed the same? Anything special happen? What did we learn? Who did we talk to and what did we do?

This is a great exercise for those who aren’t so used to telling stories aloud. Learn how to find the interesting kernels in otherwise mundane details, then flesh them out and make them worth talking about. Feel free to get silly or animated if the story calls for it.

Since family mealtimes are the perfect place to have a captive audience of the entire family, they’re the ideal testing ground for everyone to get comfortable sharing. Often, dinnertime discussion will lead conveniently into a relevant family story.

Bedtime is family time

Do you have a bedtime routine? The answer’s most likely yes, but if not, there’s still plenty of time to make one. Setting aside even a few minutes to spend with the kids at bedtime can make all the difference.

Plus, bedtime is the perfect time for bedtime stories, and they don’t always have to come from a book. Children often have questions and requests for “just one more story” before the lights go out, so take the opportunity to let them hear stories about their great-grandmother’s time competing professionally on horseback or their uncle’s foray into the restaurant business.

Even simple stories can come to life in the right hands and there are no better hands than yours to tell your family’s stories. You get to go into all the behind-the-scenes details and paint a vivid picture because this is your history, too!

Record your stories for repeat performances

Kids love to hear their favorite stories over and over… and over… and over again. Parents frequently find themselves surprised by the particular stories that catch their kids’ attention.

As much as we love bonding with our offspring, there’s no denying that by the time we get to the tenth retelling of a new favorite story, it’s begun to lose its luster – for the parents, anyway. Thankfully, today’s technology offers an ideal solution: voice recording.

Using the Rosy Go app or Rosy Home console to record stories is a multi-faceted solution. Not only does it spare you from submitting to yet another story time request, it also gives you the opportunity to record your own favorite family stories for posterity.

We all have our own story about a loved one who left a voicemail or recording that we cherish to this very day. Creating voice recordings of favorite family memories is a perfect way to make your own cherished moment that your kids will appreciate years later.

Have extended family take the lead

Visiting family for a long weekend? Let them take over for you! Every member of the family has their own unique stories to tell and children will appreciate all the different ways they can hear the same story.

It might be a little embarrassing to have your own mother recount the way she remembers you coming home late one night, but trust us, your kids will love it. Getting to see their parents as human is rare for kids but it helps them feel a closer bond. When even Mom or Dad can make mistakes, it makes theirs seem not as bad.

Take a breather and leave the kiddos with the favorite aunts and uncles for a while. They might hear stories even you’ve never heard before!

Practice with your partner

Still not completely comfortable telling stories aloud? That’s okay! It can take practice. Some people are naturals when it comes to the gift of gab, but for the rest of us, we need to get used to the sound of our own voice.

Test the waters with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, such as your own partner. Take turns sharing your own family stories. This isn’t only good practice for learning how to tell engaging stories to the kids, it’s also a wonderful bonding exercise for the two of you. Enjoy your time together learning things about one another you might have never known before.

With every story you tell, it will become easier and easier to get into the habit of sharing these treasured family gems with the next generation.

Everyone loves a good story

Sharing family stories with your children is a unique and incredible way to deepen your familial bonds and pass down cherished memories in a fun way. Your children will delight in these stories the same way you did when you were a child.

Tonight, sit down, snuggle up, and tell away!


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