Family History

Family History


When your children or grandchildren ask you to tell them a story, do you reach for the nearest children's book or tell them a fairy tale you're familiar with? If so, you may be doing them a disservice by not digging into your memory bag of family stories.

It's been proven that children who know more about their family and its history, are better adjusted and more able to cope with stressful situations.

One of the first professionals to identify the relationship between knowledge of family and a child's coping ability was Dr. Sara Duke, a psychologist, who noticed that her disabled students were better able to face challenges if they knew more about their families.

Her husband, Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush were intrigued by her findings and decided toВ  test the hypothesis at the Emory Center for the Study of Myth and Ritual in American Life. They started by asking nearly 50 children questions such as: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know the story of your birth?

When they compared the results of their findings to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, an overwhelming conclusion was reached that the more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.(1)

The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Two months later when 9/11 occurred, they again assessed the children and found those who knew more about their families were better able to cope with the stress of that dreadful day.

Family stories help connect children to a "larger sense of self," or a belonging to somethings bigger. The stories you tell shouldn't be limited to just the good times. Often,В  stories about the difficult times you or the others experienced, how they were dealt with them, and the successful outcome will help children to realize that perseverance pays off.

Take opportunities to squeeze in stories when you're traveling, hiking or tucking them in at night. You'll soon find they are clamoring for more.

Of course, we all realize we won't be here forever and that's why it is so important to write these stories down or to record them. These stories are an important part of your family's legacy -- a legacy that will be cherished for generations to come.


(1) The Stories that Bind Us; Bruce Feiler; The New York Times, 3/15/2013;


Lynda Fisher is the author of Your Legacy, Your Life and I Wish You Happiness: Creating an Ethical Will for the People You Love. She is passionate about the practice of Legacy writing. As a speaker, author and business entrepreneur, she is sharing her message with others throughout North America in hopes they will join her in her crusade to preserve their life stories and family history.

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