Why You Should Tell Kids Your Stories


Have you ever noticed how you see different things every time you watch a movie? My 11-year- old daughter was screening the Pixar film UP recently and commented on her "new" insight.

"It's so sad Ellie had a miscarriage!"  she said.

Um. What?

Quickly, I replayed the movie in my head and realized that indeed, the story starts with a couple (Carl and, ironically enough, Ellie...same as my daughter's name) who grow up together, get married, and can't have children.  The montage around the miscarriage is quick and the signals are subtle for an 11-year-old, so I wasn't surprised she hadn't noticed this storyline before.

"Do you know what a miscarriage is?" I asked. "Yes. It's the spontaneous death of a fetus." She replied as if reading from a textbook.

Hmmm.  Someone's been paying attention in Biology.

I hesitated for a fraction of a second, then I said, "Did you know that I had a miscarriage?"  Of course I knew in advance that she didn't know, so I buckled up for the rapid-fire questions...

Were you sad? Do you know if it was a girl or a boy? When did this happen? How did you know it was a miscarriage? What did Dad think? Was he sad? Did it hurt? Did you cry?

You get the idea.

We talked through her questions, and the topic was dispatched as quickly as it appeared.  No big deal. Easy breezy.

The exchange made me happy, not just because the story is part of my past, but because telling stories represents a larger value for our family.

1. Stories Expand the Dialog

We know that the more we speak to our kids, the greater their learning.  But stories do more than provide extra words; they give us more material to discuss.  In this case, the idea of people being sad in a movie made the jump to real life.

When your children give you a segue to personalize and apply a story to their lives, take it!

2. Stories Establish Transparency

One of the most common things we tell our kids is, "our family talks about stuff."  We get into the junk of our lives as a matter of habit. This doesn't mean we aren't strategic in our timing and delicate in how we handle assorted topics, but it DOES mean we practice having awkward conversations.

Transparency starts with parents.

3. Stories Connect Us

My stories sound a lot like other people's stories.  Your stories do the same.  When we describe the ups and downs in life, we extend connection points.  We find emotional links which remind us of commonalities.  We are not designed to do life alone.  In fact, loneliness and isolation are breeding grounds for depression and insecurity.

Stories remind us that we have company in our journey.

4. Stories Teach Us

There's no better way to learn than through a story.  For instance, for those of you who have seen the movie Frozen, don't you love how the film dismisses the wisdom of "love at first sight"? Anna's story makes the point compelling and memorable. Your stories can do the same thing.

Use them!!