How can we help our children and grandchildren tell and embrace their stories? We can start by co-narrating their life events. When kids are small, begin the story of what’s happening in the day-to-day and give them the opportunity to fill in the gaps, add details, and incorporate emotion. Their level of detail might be maddening at times. Their timing will be off. The included facts might have zero relevance to the overall story (from your perspective). But be patient. The only way to improve as a storyteller is to tell stories. Be curious. Ask questions. Resist correcting or finishing the story. Model clear, concise, coherent storytelling by telling your own stories. And hope to receive the same level of patience from your kids if you are new to this practice.
As children move toward middle and high school, they begin to make an intentional move toward adulthood, which means finding a way to shift and re-shape the meanings embedded in the stories of family, school, and community to make them their own (paraphrased from Dr. Dan Siegel, “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain).
By the time that kids enter their teen years, our co-narration has given way to their narration of their own stories, and it’s probably time to do more listening than talking. Letting them tell their own stories and being attentive to how the family themes live out in their story and adapt within their changing world can be an incredibly affirming part of parenting. It can also be a little challenging if they seem to be moving away from themes we find important. This is when it can be helpful to meditate and pray over the idea that every life is a holy journey and the story of that life is a part of God’s work in the world. As we pray, ask God to reveal God’s self through the unfolding of your teen’s story.