Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was listening to books on tape. I loved hearing the stories and looking at the pictures in the book while the voice on the recording carried me down the lane or to some far away land. There was a feeling created when I listened to the stories. It was a feeling of peace and contentment knowing that all would turn out right in the end, even if the princess had some challenges along the way. But what I loved even more than these stories on tape, was listening to my mom and dad tell me their stories.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the desire to know who I was, where I came from, and where I belonged, was fulfilled whenever I heard my parents’ stories. With each story, my feelings of contentment and assurance grew stronger…not because these were fairy tales, but because these stories were real.
When I became a mother, I struggled with how to provide that sense of belonging for my own children. I learned that traditions help. To call storytelling a tradition might seem a little strange, because it isn’t tied to a holiday or event. But a tradition is something you do over and over again; something tied to honor and celebration and something that creates those feelings of belonging. To me, calling it anything else would seem stranger. I discovered that a good story:
- captures attention.
- teaches in layers.
- stays with you longer than a lecture.
- become a reference point for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual connections.
- is each to share.
I could expand on all of the above, but I’ll focus on the last point. Sharing your stories is easy; much easier than most people think. Why? Because all of your stories are with you all of the time. You can tell one at any given moment. Is all it takes is your willingness to share your story with others.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The other day, my oldest daughter was upset because some of her classmates were teasing her and hurt her feelings. Before I began sharing my stories with my children, I may have said they were being mean and that she should ignore them, or something else that would likely not have been very helpful. Instead, I told her a story about how I remembered being on the receiving end of similar treatment when I was in 4th grade, just like her. I let her ask me what I did and how it turned out and then I shared with her the rest of the story. Then I asked her how she was going to handle her situation. We had an amazing conversation and connected on a deeper level because we shared a similar experience. And this all occurred in the 7 minute drive home from piano lessons.
How did I get to the place where sharing my stories was comfortable and natural? By identify a few tools, learning some techinques and a lot of practice. I kept doing it, even though it felt forced or contrived the first few times (of course, those first few times were planned and not at all spontaneous). But I continued with it, looking for opportunities outside of those planned situations. Over time, it became more relaxed and now those moments just happen. It would be true to say that the opportunities were always there, now I just take advantage of them.
So how can you create a tradition of storytelling? It isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t require you to set aside more time out of your day; just use the time you have. All you have to do is share. You begin a tradition of family storytelling the same way you begin anything you want to incorporate as a new tradition—you start doing it. It may change and evolve as you go, or as your needs change, but the habit of sharing will be established and carried on. Here are a few tips:
- Look for moments that naturally lend themselves to sharing stories—around the table, in the car, at bedtime, during family night, etc.
- Decide when you will begin this new tradition, and do it. Will you do it every day, every Tuesday, or every 3rd Friday of the month? Start small and add as you go.
- Involve others. Invite your loved ones to share their stories.
- Make it fun. Choose a theme, a person, or a holiday and share favorite stories about it.
Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your own tradition of sharing your stories! Want to learn more about how story can impact you and your loved ones? Join us for the Story@Home Conference March 8-10, 2012.
Note: Shantel Park is our guest blogger for this article. She is the Adminsitrative Director for Story@Home and has presented storytelling workshops for many years. Shantel is also one of the many excellent presenters at the Story@Home Conference hosted by FamilySearch on March 9-10, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. For more conference info, visit us at FamilySearch.org.