Children love stories, especially true stories. Better still are true stories about their family. It is fun to watch the eyes of children as they listen. They sparkle with anticipation. If you pause too long, usually they will ask, “What happened next?” They want to know about their family members because the stories give additional meaning to their own lives.
Many of us love true stories since they speak to the child in each of us. We love the adventure unfolding in our minds as we begin to visualize the happenings. Notice what happens to your own mind and heart as you review the stories of your own life. Your whole being begins to relive the events and feelings of that time. There may have been pain, struggle, strength, peace, gains, losses, challenges, challenges met and conquered, good and not-so-good outcomes, all of which have made up your life. Here, you stand having survived thus far. Reviewing past events often gives you the courage to go on because of the strength you have developed.
Builds Family Values
Sharing your stories of struggles, challenges, and successes build faith in the future for your children and in their ability to persevere. Children learn from what they see and hear. As they watch you continue on, even though there have been struggles, they gain a measure of personal strength. They see and hear that you can make it in life.
This true story illustrates this point. Many years ago, a family with eight children moved from the city to a small, rural farming community. Being a farmer was the dream of the father, and the mother supported his dream. They bought a 160-acre farm with a small house and barn. After a period of time, they were able to get a new tractor and took delivery of fertilizer needed for the next year’s crops. The father needed to make some adjustments on the tractor to be able to use his plows.
It was very cold in the barn, so he had a coal oil stove burning. He started the tractor to move it. He didn’t see how close he was to the stove and knocked it over. The flames spread fast, heading for the fertilizer. He tried to get the tractor out but was unable because of the intensity of the flames. He barely escaped with a few burns. The farm was at least five miles from town. The volunteer fire department took some time to get there. All the family could do was huddle together, cry and watch everything burn.
Their heartbroken mother, with a tear-stained face, looked up at her husband and asked, “What are we going to do?” He replied that he didn’t know, but God would help them and they would somehow make it. Yes, there were many years of struggle, but they made it. The most successful crop of that farm was the "crop" of children who learned to work hard with faith in the future. They all have families who have learned this valuable lesson because their parents shared this story.
There are various reasons for sharing a story; from teaching a principle to having a good laugh. Because stories are captivating, the purpose can be subtle and have more than one message. For instance, our neighbor related the following story.
My parents were good friends of the ship’s captain. Mother was invited to stand in for his wife who could not attend the christening of the refitted USS Princeton. As this was a formal ceremony with many dignitaries and a large crowd of spectators, she wore a beautiful dress that had a petticoat that gave the dress a slight flare. She was escorted by the Captain of the ship who offered his arm to steady her. As the ceremony was about to begin, they started down the stairway when all the sudden her petticoat broke loose and fell to her feet. She looked down, stepped out of the petticoat, reached down, picked it up, threw it over her other arm, took the Captain’s arm and walked on with her head held high, smiling all the way.
Wow, what a fun story that combines the visual imagination with sympathetic feelings of what that mother felt. You can figure out all the wonderful messages in that experience.
Let Current Events Provide the Clue for Stories
Normal life happenings give opportunities to share. For instance:
If your daughter comes home having experienced an embarrassing situation, you could share the above story or one of your own after you have listened to her own experience.
You are on a drive with family and pass an old run-down barn, or you hear the news report someone’s house has burned down. This is a good time to share the barn story or something similar that happened in your family.
Your son or daughter wants to figure out attributes that are important when choosing a mate. After asking what he or she thinks is important, you might share your courting story and the things you found to be most valuable.
The list can be endless. Keep the stories age and content appropriate. Stories with inappropriate activities or questionable language will do nothing to build strength within your family.
Look for opportunities to share personal stories, family stories, and stories shared by neighbors and friends. Share them many times because the family will develop their favorites and ask for them over and over again.