Personal and Family Stories
Techniques For Remembering and Sharing Family StoriesPeople of all ages
hunger to remember, learn and share the stories of their lives and
those of the people who came before them, but little time is given
today to collecting or sharing them. Forces such as television,
separation of families through immigration and moving, and the fast
pace of life have all contributed to less time spent really engaging
in conversation between family members. Studies have shown that
children who are talked to and listened to are more educationally
and emotionally literate. Children who hear stories about themselves
, their parents and ancestors have higher self-esteem as they feel
connected to others, and view their lives as important. Below are
some suggestions for how parents, grandparents and teachers can
remember, and help others to remember family stories at home or in
By Elisa Pearmain
Create a memory box for yourself of objects and photographs that
remind you of events and places from your past. Bring the box out
at meal or holiday time to share with others. If you are interviewing
a relative about their history, have that person show you objects in
their home that remind them of other people places and events. Help
them create a memory box. Create a box for different relatives from
your past, and for each child in your family for their future.
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Using large sheets of paper, draw the floor plan of a place that is
important to you. It could be a house, an outdoor space such as a park
or back yard, or a whole neighborhood. Show the floor plan to others and
tell them the memories that you asociate with each place. Using sticky
paper or writing directly on the map you can capture the memories that
come back to you of that place.
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Most of us freeze up when someone asks us to tell them a story.
Although we have thousands of memories stored in our heads that big
question can be overwhelming. So start small. Memories are triggered by
association so get very specific with yourself or the person you are
interviewing. Make a list of the types of events that you would like to
hear or tell family stories about. Here are some examples:
Memories from specific time periods,
objects passed down,
how people met,
how people got their names,
where were you when stories,
family stories of supernatural events,
most happy, sad, scared, confusing, transforming, embarrasing moments,
what it was like when they were young,
interesting, famous or infamous relatives.
Brainstorm your list of questions and themes before the interview.
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Brainstorming on paper
Make a list either chronologically or by theme of every memory that you
can think of. It need not be a complete “story”. See how one memory
Story Mapping or Webbing - In the middle of a piece of paper write the
name of an event or person or place. Around it in little bubbles put
memories that relate to the one in the middle.
Kitchen Table Style Brainstorming
The best way to get grease the old memory is to get together with a
group of people and just start sharing memories. If you are interviewing
someone on a particular subject you can get things going by sharing a
few memories of your own, or anecdotes that you have heard or read. In
the classroom the teacher can start the process with a short story that
has a theme that the kids are likely to be able to have story memories
to add to.
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Using literature to bring back story memories.
Share biographical picture books, written short stories, or musical
stories to develop curiosity in kids and story memories in parents.
Have a food celebration Make a favorite recipe that has been
passed down, bring the foods together with others and share about who
made up the recipe and where and when they used to eat it.
Make a family history book together
Get all of your relatives involved in writing down and gathering family
history information. Collect photographs and beside each one write stories
and anecdotes about the people, bringing them to life for future
generations. Include letters, diary entries, family trees, newspaper
headlines, favorite songs, poems, and recipes in your book. A wonderful
way to ease the grieving process if a family member has died, is to
have everyone write down or share a favorite memory of that person and
to put them together into such a book.
Make a family history audio
or video tape Interview relatives about family history and make
copies for everyone to save and treasure.
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Hire Elisa to come and
lead a Family Stories workshop in your school, church or library!
Elisa Pearmain M.Ed Storyteller & Author
E-mail Elisa today!
PO Box 634 Lincoln, MA 01773 (781) 259-0492