Share Family Stories Around the Holiday Table

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"When a grandparent dies, it is like a library has burned down."

This old African saying has taught me the value of listening and sharing family stories. As we approach the holidays, it is even more important to turn off the Television and turn on to each other and the family stories we share.

Do you know what was your dad's favorite Christmas or Hanukkah gift as a young child? Do you know why your grandmother makes her special cookies? Do you, and more important, do your children; know why their aunts, uncles and extended family love them?

We live in a remarkable age when information and media are surrounding us daily. And yet, sadly, over the last generation we have become less and less in touch with our own history and the stories of the family from whence we came. Sometimes it is not until someone dies that we realize just how little we know about the family history and how much that individual could have shared, had we just taken the time to ask them.

The Stories are New to Your Children

As a personal historian I have seem many times how true the quotation from Lewis Munfor which says "every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers." Your child will be able to hear the stories from your parents, aunts and uncles and put them in a context to enrich his or her life, while you may have heard them so many times they have lost value.

As a parent you may think, "What good will it do my child to learn about farming in the early 1900's or working on the railroad in the 1950's. My child will live in a world that values information not physical labor.

Make a Life, Not Just a Living

However, it is not about making a living, but rather about how your ancestors made a life that is the valuable gift. It is through family stories that we gain a sense of connectedness, roots and most of all a sense of identity. Family stories are often about overcoming obstacles with courage and resourcefulness. This is a message that is needed in all lives.

Important to be Part of a Tribe

The sense of belonging, community and an important part of the whole is invaluable to each of us. We need to know where we fit in the puzzle. It is through family stories that we learn how we came to be who we are. Whether by nature or nurture, we have been effected by those adults who were a part of our lives and a part of the lives of our parents.

Share Your Stories Today

If emotions around the holiday table tend to be volatile, then ask safe questions and listen with your heart. I was surprised and overjoyed when a discussion at a recent Thanksgiving went for over an hour on Mashed Potatoes and why everyone loved them. An aunt asked everyone to share a memory about either mashed potatoes or turkey dressing.

We took turns sharing and listening, but all of us learned. We learned about the first time a daughter made potatoes for her in-laws and was criticized for using milk instead of cream. She shared how she was assertive in stating her reasons, and it set the tone for the relationship.

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at www.ArtichokePress.com.

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