Ideally, our family members should be some of our closest intimates – people whom we know the deepest, enjoy the longest, and to whom we can turn to in times of need. But family relationships can be complicated, even difficult at times. Here’s how the power of stories can help bring greater harmony, and more, to your family gatherings.
Stories shared by family members can help us add dimension and texture to our time in history as well as help us understand our family’s culture, beliefs, values, and traditions. They engage us, inspire us, give us hope, connect us to something bigger than ourselves, give meaning to the complexities of our lives, and help us share our wisdom, love and gratitude with our loved ones.
Reflecting upon our life and sharing stories is a wonderful process with many benefits, but few of us take the time to do it. The late Dr. Gene Cohen, a psychologist from George Washington University wrote in his book, The Mature Mind – The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, that we are all hardwired to reflect, to share our stories, to give back. It is a natural phase in our maturation process and in positive aging.
But the benefits are not just for our elders. There are recent studies that show that children and grandchildren who know their family stories and values:
- are more resilient because they understand that a good life is the result of many ups and downs
- have a greater sense of inter-generational connection rather than being me-focused
- often have a higher sense of gratitude knowing how hard those before them had to work to make their lives easier
- and are often more tolerant/accepting of family members because they gain an understanding of what makes them tick
And story sharing is important because each person who hears your story will glean something personal for themselves out of it – a nugget of wisdom, inspiration, clarity, or even gratitude. Another wonderful benefit from sharing stories is that we gain a better sense of ourselves – who we are and how far we have traveled along our life journey so far.
So when your family comes together for this holiday season, make time for story sharing. It’s actually fun and quite easy as it requires no advance planning, special skills or work, and everyone is included. However, you may need to assist the youngest and eldest members of your family.
Here are a few tips to help you get things rolling. Remember to encourage everyone to share the why and how of their stories, not just a one-line response. Set the stage by stating that sharing is voluntary, but everyone should give the storyteller their undivided attention. You may need to be the first to share a story to break the ice or to set an example. Then let things progress naturally as your family grows comfortable with this new holiday tradition.
You can start with these story topics or our Life Reflection Story workbook can serve as a helpful resource by providing a variety of story prompts for your holiday gatherings and beyond.
- A holiday tradition I love or loved the most…
- An event or situation when I laughed the hardest…
- The best advice or wisdom I learned from a grandparent or parent…
- How or when I learned the true meaning of gratitude…
And if you are so inclined, video your family stories or write them down and share them with everyone after the holidays as a way to preserve your special time together. You can even include favorite family recipes. I promise, your stories will become one of the most treasured gifts received this holiday season and for many generations to come!
May you find delight in your story sharing and harmony in your holidays!
Family represents the Life Slice card featured this week. The deck of 52 beautiful cards can inspire you and your loved ones to live a life of celebration and purpose. Or share them with a friend or loved one as a meaningful gift from your heart. And if you found this Life Slice feature helpful, sign up for our blog posts and you’ll receive a weekly Life Slice in your email, available whenever you are ready to explore new ways to live your life with intention.
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