Children love to hear about family - and themselves. "Experts say that happy stories surrounding the birth of a child or his early days convey the unspoken message that the child is loved," says writer Laura Stepp in Working Mother magazine.
Start spinning tales with these tips:
Eliminate storytelling shyness. Pretend you're telling a friend about a good movie scene. [Start telling stories to your children when they're very young if you suffer from "stage fright", or tell stories in the car while you're driving. - NTK]
Plan stories you'll tell. Reflect on the tales and sayings you heard as a child that made you feel good or made your life better. And think of stories about when your child was younger.
[My mother's best stories were about her childhood hunting dog, a collie named Tuffie. I know by heart the tale of Tuffie saving my mom from being bitten by a rattlesnake when they were walking in the woods, and of Tuffie cutting his paw on the ice only to be carried home wrapped in mom's plaid hacking jacket. Woods safety and loyalty were recurrent themes in my mom's stories, and Tuffie was smarter than Lassie and Benji put together! I've already started telling my Katie about "Grammy's Tuffie".]
Ask grandparents to share their stories, too. Looking at a family photo album or scrap book may jog their memories for interesting tidbits about you or your spouse that your children will really enjoy!
[My Grandmother tells stories of the difficult but happy life she and her family shared in Russia and the little Pennsylvania coal mining town where they settled. From her I learned that: Great-grandma Juliana's hair turned white overnight when she was 18, so worried was she that her new husband had been hurt in a mine accident. When the "old church" burned down in the 1940's, Sts. Peter and Paul's parish met for Liturgy in the bar of the local miners' club until a new church building could be built and consecrated. My own mother used to slide down 100-foot coal chutes, and even got stuck once.]
Look for opportunities to tell stories. Holiday cooking sessions, a birthday party, a child's question, and a visit from a relative can all be story openers.
Tell positive stories. Even if you don't like all the members of your family, tell positive stories about both sides of your family.
[If the stories have a "moral", all the better! If part of a story involves making a choice between right and wrong, emphasize the choice that was made and its consequences or benefits. Children devour real-life examples they can apply to their own lives.]
For more storytelling ideas, check out Did I Ever Tell You About When You Were Little? by Deborah Shaw Lewis and Gregg Lewis, Zondervan Publishing House.
Adapted from Children's Ministry Magazine, September/October 1996, page 57.
© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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