Want Happier Kids? Tell Them A Story.

I love a good story. You too?  What if I told you that telling stories helped your kids feel happier and more confident?

Psychologists from Emory University did a study in 2010 to see if knowledge of their background – those favorite family stories passed down – helped teens with their emotional well-being.  They created a “Do You Know” scale and asked twenty questions about their family history.

  • Do you know how your parents met?
  • Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  • Do you know the story of your birth?

The results were fascinating. Teens who knew more about their family had a better understanding of their identity and their place in the world, contributing to a better sense of well-being.

Think of that.

Now imagine how the stories you choose to tell over the dinner table or on the drive to school can impact your kids.

During her freshman year, my daughter looked at the cost of college tuition for the first time and almost had a panic attack. She had no idea how expensive everything was, even if you had good grades. She then began watching videos of Millennials talking about college debt and went down the rabbit hole of despair. (Thanks YouTube algorithm.)

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she stared at her computer. “Mom, we’re never going to be able afford this. I’ll never be able to go to college. There’s just no way.”

Now, I could have railed about the state of the economy, or our struggling family business, or the cost of higher education, but how would that help? Plus, I’m an optimist. I told her a story of resilience.

“Do you know that my grandma, your great-grandma, Rose, was the second youngest of nine? Her family came here during the Great Famine in Ireland. They lived on a farm and after her mother died she became the one who handled the family finances, paying the bills and such.

It was 1929. The stock market tanked and there was a run on the banks. Her father lost his entire life savings, $7,000. He came home, sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. His eyes welled with tears. “We lost the farm, Rose.”

Her brothers and sisters looked on, their faces darkening with reality.

“What do you mean?” Rose asked.

“We lost everything. We lost the farm.”

“No we didn’t.”

Her dad grew angry. “Rose, aren’t you listening to me? How are we going to pay the mortgage?”

Grandma Rose was 4’11 with fiery red hair and a temper to match. She put her hands on her hips. “It’ll be hard for the bank to take the farm considering I paid off the mortgage a month ago.”

You see, Grandma Rose learned from the stories of the Great Famine in Ireland that the best thing you could do was pay ahead on your bills when the harvest was good.  She had been paying ahead for years and not telling anyone.

Tears of despair changed to tears of joy. The whole family hugged her. My grandmother saved the family farm.

I looked at my daughter, Rylee. “See? The women in our family are good with money. We think ahead and find a way to pay for things. We’ll find a way to pay for college. My parents didn’t have much money either but I applied to every scholarship under the sun and I found a way.  The women in our family are strong. We figure things out. You’re part of that legacy, Rylee.”

Relief washed over my daughter’s face.  Our financial circumstances had not changed at all, but a story of resilience changed her outlook.

Think of the stories in your family. Even if you came from the bleakest of circumstances, if you’re still standing that speaks to your strength, your power, your grit.

Do you want happier kids? Remind them of where they come from and what they’re made of. Chances are you’ll feel empowered too.

2 thoughts on “Want Happier Kids? Tell Them A Story.

  1. Love it! I always tell stories of Overcoming. You know, how we were totally counted out but God… I find that when I tell them, it also lifts me because I remember the experience and just how hopeless things seemed at the time, but God intervened. But I like the idea of family stories too. I need to craft some and pass on to my grandchildren, all 7 of them.

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