How Family Storytelling Provides Children With Lifelong Benefits

We’re all about storytelling here at StoryCombs, especially when it comes to sharing beloved family stories. Memories fade, but when passed down, stories have the power to live forever. Did you know that 90 percent of teenagers and young adults can share a family story when asked? They really stick with us! These stories that stick with us also have serious benefits for children’s social and emotional development. Sure, they love laughing at your stories about crazy Uncle Keith or sweet Grandma Rose, but according to numerous studies, there are tangible benefits to children’s development that come with telling those stories.

Check out these incredible benefits of family storytelling as well as some solid advice for how to get started sharing your family’s stories.

Social and Emotional Benefits

Psychology researchers have found sizable benefits to family storytelling. Duke, Lazarus, and Fivush (2008) report that for children and adolescents, knowing your family’s history is correlated with higher self-esteem, lower levels of anxiety and depression, and fewer behavioral problems. A 2013 study from Australia also showed that children whose parents reminisced with them learned how to share more complex narratives with adults one to two years later, and developed a better understanding of people’s thoughts and emotions.

When you share family stories, they don’t all have to be happy and positive. As a matter of fact, sharing stories about difficult times in your life can help your children. Remember to tailor the stories so they’re appropriate for your child’s age, and include some kind of lesson you learned, in order to maximize the benefit your child gets from hearing the story. Hearing these kinds of stories can help children develop better coping skills for later in life.

Research by Duke and Fivush also showed that sharing family stories can help increase resilience in children. When children hear stories about difficult times and come to understand them as a part of life that is normal, they are better equipped to feel more confident in navigating their own journey. Additionally, there’s a strong correlation between children knowing more about their family history and feeling more in control and capable. Furthermore, it can lead to a strong sense of belonging, and a feeling that we’re part of something larger than ourselves. According to Fivush, this helps children feel like they’re truly a part of their family, a bigger whole than their individual self. Clearly, there’s no shortage of benefits to sharing family stories!

Language and Literacy Skills

In addition to the numerous social and emotional benefits, family storytelling can also have a significant impact on a child’s language and literacy skills. Sharing family stories can help children learn vocabulary, story structure, and comprehension, according to a study from the University of Nevada. It’s also a fantastic way to stimulate children’s creativity and imagination! You can both share your family stories with your kids and encourage your children to share their own stories. This can be especially valuable in families where the parent isn’t comfortable reading—verbal storytelling can be just as impactful for kids.

Advice for Telling Family Stories

When you tell family stories, there are a few best practices that are worth keeping in mind:

  • Children are never too young for stories. Even if your kids are under age five, they can hear and learn new words and start to develop a firmer sense of self .

  • If you’re having trouble getting started, this “Do You Know…” scale from researchers Duke and Fivush is a great jumping off point. Do your kids know how you met? Do they know where their name came from? Do they know some lessons you learned from positive and negative life experiences? You can check out the full list on Psychology Today.

  • The best family stories are funny, entertaining, or leave the child with some lesson learned, according to Fivush in The Wall Street Journal. “They have a very important function in teaching children, ‘I belong here. I’m part of these stories.’ They provide not just a script for life, but a set of values and guideposts,” she says.”

  • If you have teenagers, be cautious in how you approach family storytelling. Sometimes, they’re not as receptive as younger kids! “Linda Blair counsels that in your child’s teenage years they may be less of an eager sponge for family tales. ‘At that age they are more interested in who am I in relation to their peers. That’s when they roll their eyes and want you to please stop.’” Make sure your teens are in a receptive mood before diving into a lengthy family storytelling session!

Telling family stories can be so much fun! What’s your favorite family story to tell? We hope you’ll record the story and upload it to your Hive for your whole family to enjoy!


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