Gifts come in many forms, so think of sharing family history as a gift to your family.
Wake Forest University professor of counseling Samuel Gladding and his family have "halls of remembrance" in their home. Every year since they were married, he and his wife, Claire, have created picture collages highlighting that year with snapshots of trips, sports, plays and family outings.
He shared his views here.
Author of several family counseling books, the professor says that sharing family history
... strengthens individuals and it strengthens families. If you know the past, you are much more likely to benefit from it and be inspired or determined to make the future better or at least as good as the past.
When families gather for the holidays, Gladding says it can be the perfect opportunity to share family stories that will benefit younger and older generations.
There are benefits for both younger and older generations.
For the younger generations, Gladding says it can help as:
Knowing family stories can inspire children to ask ‘Can I do as well or better? If you don’t have something to aspire to, you probably won’t grow.
Sharing a story from the past illustrates challenges overcome by older relatives. The stories may help children handle their own problems.
For the adults, he says that sharing stories and experiences may avoid depression and reinforce the idea that they lived their lives well.
Difficult or tragic stories also have a place, sharing life lessons, as seniors pass along their experiences to the next generation.
Here are some tips - from Gladding and from the MyHeritage team - for a family storytelling session.
- Create a new storytelling tradition. When you invite people, tell them you'd like to share family stories when they visit and encourage them to bring photos to tell their story.
- Focus on lessons learned. Ask guest storytellers to share what they learned from their experience. Sharing lessons learned from life experiences provides useful ideas for future situations faced by younger relatives.
- Record it. Make sure that a guest acts as the story recorder. Stories can be written down, or audio recorded. Even better, video record the stories and the storytellers. Make sure that other guests receive copies.
- Show-and-tell. Ask your guests to bring a family object to share and talk about.
- A family tree. Prepare a large family tree and hang it on the wall. Show the younger generations where they are on the chart and how they are related. When sharing family stories that include other relatives, show (if possible) where those family members are on the family tree.
- Help seniors tell their stories. Older relatives may need encouragement to tell their stories. They may feel that no one is interested in their lives or what they've done. Try to persuade them to tell their stories. Their stories may be the hit of your holiday gathering, particularly if they have not previously shared those experiences.
What are your own tips for sharing family history memories during the holidays?
We look forward to reading your suggestions. Your special tip may be the beginning of a new tradition for another family.
Read Gladding's complete story at the link above.