Kids that know a lot about their family stories do better when they face challenges. Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivsush asked kids questions like: Do you know where your parents met? Do you know something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

After conducting their study, they concluded that the more kids know about their family story the stronger their sense of control over their lives. Also the higher their self-esteem.

The Value of Family Stories

Some family stories build child esteem better than others. Resist the urge to only tell story where the family does well or only tell stories of struggle. The best theme for family stories shows ups and downs. Stories that show the family sometimes suffers setbacks and sometimes achieves triumphs.  Most importantly, the family sticks together through it all.

Stories that share how the family sometimes suffers setbacks and sometimes achieve triumphs build emotional strength. The most important part of each story centers on the family sticking together through it all.

Children find comfort in knowing they are part of something bigger. They find strength in belonging to a family that has traditions and survival skills that help manage life’s struggles.

These children also develop a more realistic understanding of life’s ups and down. Facing setbacks might be easier for them. Perhaps they are better equipped to see failure as a temporary state that can be overcome. And so those experiences of setbacks become lessons of courage.

Sharing Your Family Stories

Be glad to know family stories of difficult times hold just as much importance as success stories. Given this research you might want to think about what family themes you want to emphasize and share with your children.

Here are a few suggestions:

-Elaborate your stories to demonstrate how family members helped one another.

-Make it interactive and ask your children what they would have done in a similar situation.

-Talk about the fun celebrations as well as sad occasions.

-Create a family story album with pictures to accompany the stories.

For more information on helping your children express their emotions, you can pick up a copy of Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz’s book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings.

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz is a licensed psychologist and social worker.  Her Ph.D. is in developmental psychology from Bryn Mawr College.