Sunday, April 3, 2016

Be the Memory Keeper (and the Memory Sharer)

From one of my old photo albums.  Robi playing with his band back in the day. 
I have dubbed myself my family's "memory keeper."  I have always loved to take photographs and to print and share them and save them for posterity.  And now that my daughter is old enough to care about our lives before her, I really find it fun to share our old photo albums with her.  My daughter has heard our stories enough now that, when I mentioned last week to one of her friends who is taking guitar lessons that we are a musical family, she immediately jumped to telling the story of how her dad used to play bass in a band and that's probably why she is good at music, too.  (I always cough and try to interject that I sing and play instruments, too, ahem, but, alas, by then she and her friend had turned their attention to something else and I was old news.)

Anywho.

The point of this longwinded, um, story, is to say that I recently read a really neat article about how children who know their family's stories actually have better mental health and well-being than children who don't.  Especially if children know stories about our strife, and how we overcame it. According to researchers at the Family Narratives Lab at Emory University,
"Our results suggest that adolescents who are embedded in a storied family history show higher levels of emotional well-being, perhaps because these stories provide larger narrative frameworks for understanding self and the world, and because these stories help provide a sense of continuity across generations in ways that promote a secure identity (see Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008, for a full theoretical discussion)."
Isn't that interesting?  I read several articles on this topic, and there is so much amazing information here, but let me stick to the key point:  The stories we tell our children actually matter.  Sharing of ourselves, even about the difficult things--no, especially about the difficult things--makes a difference for our children.  When our children are well-versed in the stories of our lives, it helps them make sense of how they might fit into the world and how they might overcome strife when it happens to them.

So, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents, cousins:  I say to you, tell your story!  Then tell it again.  Bore the young children with details of how you felt, and how it was tough, and then how you persevered anyway.  Keep talking until they are rolling their eyes and can quote you verbatim.  Then, and only then, will you know you're a true memory keeper.




What stories that your parents or grandparents told are meaningful to you?  I love the story of how my maternal grandmother became a Women's Army Corps member during WWII, and of how my paternal grandmother didn't meet her husband until late in life and thought she'd be an old maid (and she went on to have 4 children!).  

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