A Special Way to Connect with Your Child

It’s nearly impossible for children to independently imagine that the adults they love and admire were once small children. Is it true that once upon a time, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma were little and they too had collections, talents, best-friends, and secret hide-outs?

It is true, and one simple way that we can connect with our children is by sharing stories of our own childhood with them. Storytelling has become a bedtime ritual in my family. After reading picture books and turning off the lights, I snuggle close with the boys and tell them “Little Melissa” adventure stories. Some, (like the one about the time I had tea with a gnome in the forest) are slightly embellished! Others, (like the one about the time I dumped water over my brother’s head for no reason at all) are true.

1 3 033-002Whether fiction or non-fiction, storytelling allows children to relax, reflect, and make sense of the world around them. Without illustrations to view, they must use their own imaginations to creatively see the pictures in their mind. Colin’s vision of my stories will always “look” different from Owen’s visions because of their age-difference, life experiences, and personalities. Perhaps after storytelling, they reflect:

Mommy was little once. She does understand how frustrating it can be to not get your way or to feel sad because someone didn’t share with you . . . Mommy understands how exciting it is to travel in an airplane, and she had trouble using a quiet voice too, just like me . . . Mommy didn’t always color so neatly and cut straight lines with scissors. She practiced hard and got better.

Stories are especially important for a child like Colin. A 4-year old perfectionist by nature, he is the type of child that will burst into tears if he accidentally colors outside of the lines and it wasn’t in his plan to do so. Because he happens to adore my stories and enjoys arts & crafts (an interest that we both share), I decided that it was time to invite him to view my life-time collection of sketchbooks.

His favorite drawings weren’t my carefully detailed sketches from high-school or college. In fact, he declared that they, “were boring.” True to childhood, he loved my silly, captioned cartoons from grade school. My short stories and swirly crayon drawings of horses, family, and my childhood friends made him smile, chuckle, and even snort!

1 3 034“This animal isn’t real!” he declared while looking at the drawing above.

“That’s true. But, it was fun to pretend that it was. Can you imagine if you actually saw an animal that was part giraffe, part horse, part zebra, part bee, part rhino and part frog? What would you do?”

“If I saw that, I would be like, ‘Hey, you are funny! Do you eat candy canes?’ I would want you to take a picture of it too, so that we could remember it.” Suddenly, quite seriously, he pointed to a drawing of a horse. “If you give me that drawing, I will color it in to make it look more pretty. It looks real, but it’s boring. I like the funny ones better. I wish I could draw a real horse like that.”

1 3 046“It takes a lot of practice and patience to draw a real looking horse. See? I made this horse when I was very young. And I made that horse when I was a lot older.”

1 3 047“And you scribbled the brown horse. That’s okay! Mistakes happen sometimes, right Mommy?”

“Mistakes help us learn. I make mistakes everyday. Today, I accidentally put our clean clothes in the laundry basket that had the dirty clothes! They are all mixed up!”

“And today I spilled my Cheerios, but I picked them up.”

Sharing snapshots of who you were as a child makes your children feel closer to you and can serve as a valuable teaching tool.

  • Stories should be simple, positive, and age appropriate.
  • If your memories are darkened by abuse or neglect, refrain from sharing them. Avoid making up stories with scary characters (a minor conflict between a generic “good guy” and “bad guy” is okay), but keep the flesh-eating zombies out of your child’s bedtime stories.
  • Do share stories about times that you overcame obstacles, and stories in which you made a “sad choice.” Ask your child, “What could I have done instead? If you were me, what would you have done?”
  • Share your favorite childhood photographs, drawings, toys, blankets/stuffed animals, books, and collections with your child. To increase connection, play on their interests. Right now, Colin and Owen simply won’t care about my 1989 collection of New Kids on the Block extra-large buttons (maybe they will someday, when they are into music – they can tease me for being so lame!), but they love the old Legos that my brothers and I enjoyed as children.

1 3 028Connecting with your children isn’t expensive. It doesn’t involve buying new toys or books or craft supplies. Show them who you are; share your past, your present and your time.

6 thoughts on “A Special Way to Connect with Your Child

  1. My mom is better about telling stories of my childhood to my kids. I need to work on this. I know they enjoy it. Thank you.

  2. I am going to try this! I like the idea of letting children see you as people that are fallible, It makes them feel more connected to us. Just as an aside, I was curious about the camera that you used to take the pictures for the header. Those pictures are very vivid.

    • It really is a wonderful technique for teachers too! When I worked as a School Counselor and taught large groups, I often told stories of “Little Mrs. Lennig” and the kids loved it! I could tell because they had expressions of complete engagement on their faces. Storytelling from personal experience is a powerful, effective tool (I’ve heard it’s becoming very popular in the world of business sales too – people are more apt to buy something if they are touched by another’s personal experience). As for the camera, you can find information about that in my Contact/Policies page. Thanks!

  3. As my stepkids get older and I demand more of them, my stories of missing the mark seem to come in very handy. I scold them, but sugarcoat the moment with a story of when I did just the thing I’m angry at them for doing. I hope it shows hem no one is perfect and all are capable of change.
    On another note, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our childhood memories influence the ways we play with our kids, and the ways we show them how to play. My childhood memories are not all that clear, so I find myself playing as I believe I might have played or as I think I was supposed to have played, a bit like the telephone game.

  4. Pingback: Felt Board Easter Eggs | Fireflies and Mud Pies

  5. Pingback: A Special Way to Connect to Your Child on hands on : as we grow

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