From the school nurse: Share stories this summer

Think about taking time this summer to share stories. Do your kids know how their parents met? The story of when they were born? Where their grandparents grew up?

Summertime often means less scheduled days, visits with extended family members, and perhaps a family vacation. This time of longer days opens the door to opportunities to tell stories. And telling these stories just may make a difference in your child’s health and well-being.

The Newton school nurses strive to develop skills, programs, and ways to better meet the health needs of students. During a program this year, the importance and protective benefit of effective relationships between children and their families emerged as a focus.

The group decided to share the “Do You Know?” (DYK) scale that’s a part of an Emory University study by Marshall Duke, Amber Lazarus and Robyn Fivush that indicates “children who score high on the DYK scale are associated with higher levels of self-esteem, an internal locus of control (belief that an individual can influence events and their outcomes), better family functioning, lower levels of anxiety, fewer behavioral problems, and better chances for good outcomes if faced with educational or emotional/behavioral difficulties.”

The study doesn’t mean that sitting down with your child and rattling off the answers to all these questions is the solution. “It is not knowledge of these specific facts that is important; it is the process of families sharing stories about their lives that is important,” the authors wrote.

In their research, the authors found that often these stories are shared by mothers and grandmothers during family dinners, family vacations and holidays. “Other data indicated that these very same regular family dinners, yearly vacations, and holiday celebrations occur more frequently in families that have high levels of cohesiveness and that they contribute to the development of a strong sense of what we have called the intergenerational self. It is this intergenerational self and the personal strength and moral guidance that seem to derive from it that are associated with increased resilience, better adjustment, and improved chances of good clinical and educational outcomes.”

So the school nurses challenge all families to share a story this summer whether you’re in the car on the way to camp, sitting around a campfire, or gathering for a meal after work. Below are a few more questions to get you started. Click here to find the full list and links to articles. Perhaps you can think of more stories on your own.

Do you know how your parents met? Do you know which person in your family you look most like? Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young? Do you know the source of your name?

Article reference: Duke, M.P., Lazarus, A., & Fivush, R. (2008). Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45, 268-272