Monday, March 25, 2013

Tell Me a Story: A Mommyland Challenge

You guys may not know this about me, but I've read half the parenting books in my local library. I'm constantly reading articles and blogs and trying to gather as many tips as a I can. Because I love my kids and I'm not a natural at this mothering thing and I don't want to ruin them or mess them up because they were perfect when I got them.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot about this book "The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More" I'm just about to dive into it myself. My mom brought me an article about some of the book's big take-aways from the New York Times recently (it's right here) and I got really excited about it.

The gist of the article is that our kids need to know all of our family stories. That knowing those stories helps them to feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves and that, in turn, makes them stronger, more connected, and more resilient people.

"The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative... They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. 
Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?
The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. “We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said."
((For big social science nerds like me, the peer-reviewed article can be found here.)) 
Click thru to Amazon here.

I am so intrigued by this. It's Spring Break week here and we have NOTHING to do. Nothing planned. No projects or trips. Until I read this. It all makes such perfect sense to me. Knowing where I fit (or never quite fit) into my family's extended, multi-generational narrative always clicked everything into context for me, especially as a teenager and young adult. It was so important to know all that stuff and I think as a parent - I haven't been doing it. I haven't been telling my kids those stories. 

The crazy part is that my kids are DYING to hear them. They really, really want to know. Remember when Kate wrote that amazing post describing telling each of her kids about when they born? (It's right here and it might be the best Mommyland post ever, but grab a Kleenex because it will make you cry so hard you look like Garfield). 

My kids want to hear these stories and I want to tell them, but up until now it hasn't been a priority for me. Not anymore! For our Spring Break, my husband and I are going to tell our kids all our family stories (well maybe not ALL our family stories). I'm going to enlist my mom, my dad, my mother-in-law and my grandmother, too. If you know my dad - that's pretty risky as his stories will undoubtedly include Joseph Stalin and attractive women he has known.

Here's my challenge to you - why not do the same? It's free! It's supposed to make our kids stronger, more resilient people! What could it hurt, right? If you're not sure where to start, I dug up the 20 yes or no questions on the "Do You Know" scale used by the researchers at Emory (via Huffington Post) - see below.

Let's tell our kids these stories. Let's see how they process it. Let's see what they remember and what they forget. Let's wait a while, and have them tell the stories back to us. Let's ask the little ones to draw pictures of stuff they heard about. Then, if you feel like it's been a cool experience (or a bad one) or there's something interesting that came of it - leave a comment here or send me an email at Lydia.and.Kate@gmail.com 

Is this too weird? We've never done anything like this before. But it just feels right, so what the hey? 

xoxo, Lydia

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The 20 Questions on the Do You Know scale.
1. Do you know how your parents met?
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?
3. Do you know where your father grew up?
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?
6. Do you know where your parents were married?
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?
8. Do you know the source of your name?
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?
20. Do you know about a relative whose face "froze" in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

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