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The Power of Myth: The Benefits of Sharing Family Stories of Hard Times

The Wall Street Journal Online (New York, NY) , December 22, 2005


Before you drag out old family stories at holiday gatherings this season, researchers have some news for you.

The tales you choose to tell, and the way you tell them, may play a bigger role than you think in shaping your children's self-esteem and their academic skills.

A growing number of researchers are putting family stories under the microscope, recording and dissecting the plots and adults' storytelling techniques to uncover links to children's development. What they're finding is that a sense of family history is linked to self-esteem and resiliency in kids. And contrary to what adults may assume, happily-ever-after tales aren't always best. Instead, stories of relatives grappling with sad or difficult events may give children the wisdom and perspective they need to thrive.

A study by Joan E. Norris, a professor at University of Guelph, Ontario, and others, one of 16 studies published last year in the book Handbook of Dynamics in Parent-Child Relations, recommends looking for storytelling opportunities.

Subjects Covered: education

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