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Become a Better Story Teller

Pass along a little family history to your kids by telling good stories

Through family stories, we hear what traits abound in our gene pool and, by extension, in the larger human family of which we are members. If you're intimidated by the very thought of telling your kids a story, take heart. Storyteller Jennifer Jacobson, who leads workshops for parents who feel they lack the artfulness gene (or something), offers this advice:

Know Your Audience. Who is this kid you're telling the story to? What does she like? What issues is she dealing with? Tailor your story accordingly.

Reflect on Your Own Life. Kids love to hear about adults' childhoods, especially "firsts" — the first time you went to preschool, the first time you rode a bike. "Such stories make the grown-up into the child, which creates a tremendous moment of empathy between parent and child," says Jacobson.

Tell Them About Themselves. Kids love to hear their stories: The Day You Were Born; How You Got Your Name; A Funny Thing You Did; and so on.

Use Objects in the Home. Think family heirlooms: That candlestick might be the only thing Grandma brought from Russia when she emigrated. What did it mean to her? What does it mean to you and your children?

Ritualize. Rearrange the furniture. Light a candle. "Mark this as a time apart," Jacobson urges. "Change the space in a way that says, 'Now it's time for something special.' Making it special helps it last." Keep in mind, of course, that if you want kids to look forward to this family ritual, you've got to keep it fun.

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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