Tales that bind
Storytelling can help bridge the generation gap. Learn some tips from a storytelling expert on how you can get started telling the stories that matter to your grandchildren.
BY: Sheila Wee
Children love to hear stories about their parents’ and grandparents’ childhood experiences and this helps them become avid listeners. They also like to hear stories about themselves – stories about the day they were born, or the things they did when they were younger.
Handing down stories is a great way to keep a family’s heritage alive and an opportunity to convey family values. Knowledge of their family history helps children know who they are and makes sense of their life.
When to begin
You can start to share stories with the children when they are babies. You can tell them very short, simple, repetitive stories with lots of vocal expressions and some actions. You can even sing to them the story of their day in a soothing lullaby voice as you are putting them to sleep at night. Another option – you can make a “baby-proof” photo album of family members and allow your grandchild to turn the pages and look at the photos while you talk about the people and events in the pictures. They may be babies but it’s never too early to start telling and reading stories to them.
As your grandchild gets older, they might enjoy tape recordings of family members telling family stories. Some ideas to include in the recording – where you lived as children, what your school was like and what memories you had of special days/celebrations.
Here are some more ideas on how to create your stories to tell:
1) Create a timeline
Mark down key dates in your life; incidents that stand out; experiences that shaped you; difficult times and turning points; stories of your childhood; experiences that shaped your moral views; highs and lows in your working life – achievements, failures, etc; and people who influenced you in both your working and personal life, and why.
2) Story prompts
- Take yourself back in time to a place that you spent a lot of time when you were young. Imagine you are there at a particular time of day or on a particular special day in the year. What might you see, hear, smell and touch; what food might you taste? Let your mind wander around the place and time. Another time, you could do the same exercise but at a different place, or at the same place, at a different time of day.
- Emotions are good triggers. When and where did you feel the following –
- Pick one of the above categories and think back to when you were a child – what does it bring to mind? Do you remember any stories you were told about these subjects – name stories – where names come from, meanings, nicknames; family sayings, recipes, rituals and special celebrations; and family stories related to historical events.
- Pick a word from the following list and let it sit around in your mind for a while. What memories does that particular word conjure up for you?
So now that you have the tools to guide you in your own storytelling, go ahead and give it a try!
Sheila Wee has been a professional storyteller since 1999 and has been described as a godmother of Singapore storytelling. Wee founded Singapore’s first storytelling circle and its first storytelling company. She is a founder member and the current president of the Storytelling Association (Singapore).
(** PHOTO CREDIT: grandparents, stacieand, stock.xchng)