Telling Kids Family History

Bruce Feiler:

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.

Feiler also points out the important of telling kids positive stories:

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

When our mom’s oldest sister was still alive and well, she told us many great stories about her parents, particularly their business success. Our grandparents were entrepreneurs and they worked hard everyday. Even though they were took advantage of and cheated on, they remained kind and compassionate towards others. Our aunt learned all of those skills from our grandparents and became successful herself.

When she left Vietnam, she also left behind her houses, businesses, and fortunes. In America, she rebuilt everything from her empty hands. She started out with growing mung bean sprouts. From there, she owned a small Asian grocery store. Then she opened a Chinese restaurant with a full bar. She also owned a beer-to-go joint. She had a couple of apartment complexes for rent. When her brother and sister started a restaurant but could not handle the work, she took over the business and saved their behinds.

Their stories were inspiring. Even though I don’t possess any of the skills they had, I always appreciated the family history. I am so glad that she told them to us. I will pass them along to our children.