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Discover Your  Family Stories During the Holidays

Family around a dinner table telling stories


By John Millen

Here in the United States, this week is the start of the holiday season.

My advice over the past few volatile years has been to Avoid Awkward Holiday Conversations. Depending on your family dynamics, you might want to read that article to save your holidays.

But today I have a more positive, proactive approach: use this time to discover your family stories. Every family has a treasure chest of stories: some funny, some sad and some untellable.

Human beings are hardwired for storytelling. That’s why all of the world’s civilizations have had the tradition of passing along stories through the generations.

Family legacy stories

And for most families, there are stories that have been forgotten and may be lost forever if not repeated one more time. 

So the holidays are a perfect time to gather some of the family’s legacy stories and start sharing new stories from the next generation.

There will be plenty of time later to watch football on TV, talk about celebrity behavior or show that crazy Tik Tok video.

Instead, my recommendation is that when your family gathers this year, you should take the time to go around the table and ask everyone to share a story. Not just the seniors, everyone including the children.

Story prompts

Here are three prompts you can use to get the party started: first, best and worst.

Each of these are powerful tools for getting the ball rolling down the hill. You might choose just one question and have everyone answer that one question. Or ask everyone a different question. You can even have people draw a story prompt paper from a bowl.

1. For example, when was the first time you ____________?

When was the first memory you have with the family? Saw or met your partner?  Loved a pet?  Drove a car? Were scared? 

2. What’s the best _________? 

Family memory you have? Best meal? Best vacation? 

3. What’s the worst _________?

Vacation? Job? Meal? Family memory?

You get the idea. These three prompts can be used endlessly to discover fascinating stories.

When you hear great stories make sure to keep them in your story bank.

I can tell you from experience that the “worst” prompt may result in some of the most entertaining stories.

It may feel awkward at first because people may not be used to sharing, but once a couple of stories are told everyone will be on board and will have an enjoyable experience.

Try putting aside the phones for a few minutes to uncover a treasure of family stories. 

You and your family and friends will be glad you did.

Happy holidays and let me know how it goes.

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