Posttraumatic Growth

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0


Dr. Richard Tedeschi, Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte discusses how positive transformation can follow a traumatic event.

When bad things happen, people often feel like it will break them — a serious illness, death of a loved one or an unfortunate event. However, scientific studies show most people recover from major life crises transformed AND even stronger than before.

This phenomenon is called Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). In this Soaringwords video, Lisa chats with Dr. Tedeschi, a leading expert in the field, who discusses how PTG is a process people go through and a place they get to when they come to recognize that they have been transformed.

PTG refers to a positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Posttraumatic Growth is not simply a return to baseline, the way your life was before the traumatic event. Instead it is an experience of IMPROVEMENT after the traumatic event that may be extremely profound, even life changing.


How Does Helping Another Child Make An Ill Child Feel Better?

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0

PHOTO: ALCIR N. DA SILVADr. Ron Taffel is one of the most eclectic and practical child-rearing experts in the country and the author of two best-selling books, Parenting by Heart: How to be in Charge, Stay Connected and Instill Your Values- When it Feels Like You’ve Got 15 Minutes a Day (Addison Wesley) and Why Parents Disagree: How Women and Men Parent Differently and How We Can Work Together (Morrow).   He has also been featured on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, and hundreds of radio shows.




Solid historical evidence shows that children’s sense of self-esteem, self-worth, mood, and anxiety lifts when given the opportunity to help others.  In fact, Freud instructed parents of an anxious and ill child to purchase a dog for the girl.  The child moved beyond her fears by focusing on caring for her pet.  Since this time, parents and professionals have found, over and over again, that vulnerable or stressed children (and adults) are relieved of burdens when offered the opportunity to care for others.  Unfortunately, today’s pop culture promotes the notion that kids just want to consume things.  This focus on “stuff” and material acquisition makes us forget that children’s powerful and inate desire to help others is still intact.  It is compelling to remember that even children who are clearly suffering will be relieved of their burdens when they can do something to help someone else.


Acts of kindness give children a sense of power at a point when they are feeling the worst sense of powerlessness.  The hospital environment isolates children — machines beeping at all hours of the day and night, tubes, procedures, and too much time away from friends.  They feel so many negative things inside because “nothing seems to be working right” in their body and they have no control.  Doing an act of kindness helps children feel empowered.  This feeling is contagious.  It makes them feel more in control and more powerful at a difficult time.

Children identify with each other.  Doing something positive for another ill child reduces feelings of isolation and despair.  From nursery school through college, children are surrounded by their peers.  Their self-identity is wrapped up in beliefs, language, trends and behaviors that are shaped and shared in groups.  That’s why it is not surprising that the isolation of illness is one of the biggest hardships for hospitalized and chronically ill children.  When ill and challenged children reach out and take actions to help others, it gives them an experience that is incalculably positive because it instills a sense of hope.  They can immediately see or imagine how this kindness transforms an ill child.  Then they feel a sense of possibility and hope, leaving their sadness and isolation behind.  The child learns and borrows from this experience allowing them to feel more hopeful and positive in the face of the most difficult circumstances.

When children are ill, adults tend to focus primarily on the treatment of the child’s illness.  It is natural that when a child is ill, his or her parents will organize around attending to the child’s needs, treatments, and the alleviation of symptoms and discomfort.  Normal routines (enjoying fun activities together, doing homework, eating dinner together, watching TV and relaxing) go by the wayside and the child’s identity can be subsumed by the illness.  Another positive consequence when an ill child does kind acts for other ill children is that it gives parents, doctors, nurses and other caregivers the opportunity to acknowledge the child’s true personality as evidenced through creativity, kindness, and compassion.  This in turn makes the child feel more positively about themselves and their actions.

Making Hope Happen with
Dr. Shane Lopez

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0

Hope matters. The author of Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others shares important tools.

Just because you may be grappling with serious illness in your family, you still can have HOPE.  How do some people deal with and bounce back from setbacks? Why do they lead happier and healthier lives? It’s because they have hope. So, what exactly is hope and how can you develop it, too? Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, world-renowned expert on the psychology of hope, Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D.,  shares strategies for building a high-hope mindset. He tells uplifting stories of real people who are Making Hope Happen in their lives. The message is clear: Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope is contagious.

SOARING into Strength: SoaringImagery

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0

We have created a series of SoaringImagery videos to help you reduce anxiety, fear and depression during challenging times.
Here are some special SoaringImagery videos featuring guest expert Rachel Epstein, Director, American Institute of Mental Imagery, to help reduce stress from COVID-19.

Soaringwords SoaringImagery: How to Jump Into Healing Imagery
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Corona Bashing Imagery
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Crown of Light Imagery for Healing
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Swallow the Rainbow Imagery for Calm
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Red Ring of Fire Imagery for Protection
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Blue Sky Umbrella Imagery
Soaringwords SoaringImagery: Breathing Tips for Healing Imagery


What are Visualizations? Healing Imagery exercises are designed to help ill children and their parents connect with their inner resources and are often used to bring about a feeling of calm, strength and wellness. You’ll find them comforting and relaxing. And, you’ll soon discover that the process of learning how to imagine healing actually transfers the power away from the illness and gives it to the person. These Imagery exercises work beautifully for children of all ages and also for adults who want to re-connect with their own deep inner resources of strength to be able to effectively take care of their child and themselves. (This is not meant to replace other sources of medical help.)

There is much research which documents the relationship between the mental act of imagery and biological/physiological change in the body. Illness often causes a lot of stress. Healing imagery exercises can help you take a break. They are easy to do. Doing these healing imagery does not actually take a lot of time (only a few minutes) and you can shift energy around immediately.

Even though you are doing these healing imagery exercises in your mind, you can feel a positive change in your emotions and perhaps in your body.   Don’t be hard on yourself or try too hard; it just might take a little time to get the hang of it. So take a deep breath and let’s get started.

Soaringwords’ CEO & Founder, Lisa Buksbaum, has been an intuitive healer since she was a young child. When she was five years old she often felt special connections with people and nature. When she was in college she first learned about Mira Rivka her great great grandmother who was a healer in the 1880s in New York City. People would send for her (in a horse drawn carriage) to come and do the “laying of the hands” to help loved ones have a shift in their physical or emotional health. In her Soaringwords journey, Lisa has inspired thousands of people to experience a positive shift using healing imagery and the strength and wisdom inside each child and grown-up. If you are OPEN to these healing imagery exercises, you will be delighted to feel powerful changes.  Below are twenty healing imagery exercises that Lisa wants to share with you. Send her an email at and let her know what you experienced!  Wishing you strength and Soaringwords.

Special thanks to Soaringwords interns Mara Stein, Zahava Presser, and Yedida Holzer for the beautiful illustrations.

Watch 12-year-old Gabby share her very own SoaringImagery that she has created.



Healing bees in a golden honey comb:

HoneycombClose your eyes and breathe in and out three times slowly. See a beautiful honey comb filled with busy bees swarming all around the hive. Bees are so smart, even though they are rather small, they accomplish a lot. The hive is buzzing. Every bee knows precisely what to do to help the community and to make the honey flow. Let the bees enter your body and fly to all of your cells that need healing. Watch them communicate in their magnificent swirling, flying dance. Together they collect all the cells that need healing. Open your mouth and gently breathe out, let the bees all fly out, watch them shoot into space, never to return. You can see the bees buzzing around in a constellation of shooting stars when you look into the night sky. Know that the bees have left golden beads of honey inside your body. Taste its sweetness. Feel it healing you. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.




Healing Rain Shower:

RainfallBreathe in and out three times slowly. It is clear and dry outside. The sky is a deep shade of blue. See a storm moving closer on the horizon. The sky turns grey and the storm moves in quickly. Feel pellets of rain falling diagonally, gently splashing your head, your shoulders, your arms, your body and your feet. Listen to the delicious sound of the rain splashing on the ground. Feel yourself getting completely wet. Feel the water invigorating your muscles and refreshing your bones. Feel the cool drops of water on your tongue. Let water gently wash over your entire body, washing over all of your negative thoughts and tension, cleansing you and healing you. The storm passes quickly. Reach for a large, fluffy, white towel. Feel how soft it is on your skin. Dry yourself off completely, enjoying the softness of the towel. Know that you are clean and light. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Healing Waterfall:

WaterfallBreathe in and out three times slowly. You walk through a lush rain forest. The trees and flowers create magnificent rainbows of color. You are happy to see and smell such wondrous things. Suddenly you hear a faint sound of a waterfall. You walk to a clearing and look into the forest and see cascading water tumbling over the side of a cliff. You walk to the edge of the water in front of you and take off your shoes and place them on the grass. You step into the water, walking closer towards the falls. The water is shallow along the bank. It feels refreshing to be splashing through the water. You get so close to the waterfalls that you are standing under them. They are gently spraying over you like a giant watery umbrella. Hear the sound of the waterfall around you. The water flow feels like a gentle shower or hose, washing away all of your aches and pains. See yourself getting completely wet. Feel the cool water gently washing over your entire body and washing over all of your negative thoughts and fears, cleansing you and healing you. When you are ready, walk over to a large boulder and lie down, drying yourself in the sun. Enjoy the warmth of the sun. Know that you are clean, whole and healthy. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.







MountaintopBreathe in and out three times slowly. See yourself climbing a large mountain. It is a clear day. You walk along a path, going higher and higher, moving closer to the top of the mountain. The path wraps around the mountain, like a giant spiral. When you get to the top, you can see above the trees. You can see the tops of the other mountains. You can see for many, many miles. You are close to the clouds. Fluffy clouds surround you in wispy softness. When you are ready to go, leave your aches and pains on the top of the mountain. As you start walking down, you feel lighter knowing that you are leaving your heavy load and your pain behind. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Ripples on a Pond:

Ripples on a pondBreathe in and out three times slowly. Go to the edge of a tranquil pond. The water is a gorgeous shade of bluish green. Sit on a large boulder and enjoy looking at the glassy surface of the water. Toss some pebbles into the water and watch the ripples. Toss your fear into the pond. Watch it make a little splash and then watch it sink into the mud at the bottom of the pond. Once it touches the mud, it will not resurface. Enjoy the warmth of the sun. Know that you can toss all of your fears into the pond. Watch them make ripples that radiate out until they disappear. Enjoy the calm stillness of the pond. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Field of Sunflowers:

SunflowersBreathe in and out three times slowly. Walk towards a field of sunflowers. Each stalk is so tall, it towers above you. There are so many sunflowers. For as far as you can see, tall sunflowers shimmer, like thousands of golden suns covering the entire field. Step off the country road and take a few steps into the field. Sunflowers brush against your arms. They gently sway in the breeze. They are touching you. The earth feels soft and cool under your feet. Feel the warmth and energy of the sun, which helps make the flowers open and grow. Take a few Sunflower seeds from the center and chew on them. Imagine that you a swallowing a bite of sunshine. Feel it warm your body. Feel the joy of the sun as it bathes the field in a healthy, yellow glow. Feel the warmth of the light as it enters your entire body and fills you with healing energy and radiance. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.







HummingbirdBreathe in and out three times slowly. See a hummingbird dart in and out of the juicy, pink tubes of a honeysuckle flower. The hummingbird’s wings are moving so quickly that you can’t see them; it simply looks like the hummingbird is suspended in mid-air. Open your mouth and allow the hummingbird to fly inside your body. Sense the motion of the hummingbird as she moves around inside your body bringing healing nectar to your tired places. The hummingbird moves so fast as she bites off tiny pieces of illness, cleaning them away from inside of you. The particles are so small that you don’t even feel it. Know that the hummingbird is working with you to make your cells grow back healthy and strong. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Monkeying Around:

MonkeyBreathe in and out three times slowly. Watch the monkeys swing through the trees. They always have so much fun. Grab a vine and swing over to them. Together you play games, swinging through the jungle, tossing bananas and stretching from vine to vine. Your body feels strong and healthy as it reaches for each new vine. The pain slips away, falling to the ground like cascading leaves. All the bad feelings can fall to the ground, smashing into the dirt like coconuts. Laugh and swing with your band of monkey friends feeling playful and carefree. Now you have no pain. It feels so good to laugh and have fun with total joy. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.  








EagleBreathe in and out three times slowly. See yourself flying through the sky as a majestic eagle. Feel the wind brush against your face, feel the air tug at your wings. You swoop in large circles, seeing everything from high in the sky. Look down at obstacles and pains that seemed so large when you were on the ground. See how you can fly above your pain and let the freedom fill you up with positive energy. Enjoy the warmth of the sun. Know that you are strong and free just like the eagle. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Swimming with the Dolphins:

DolphinsBreathe in and out three times slowly. See yourself swimming in the ocean with a large pod of dolphins. The baby dolphins play tag with you. They nuzzle you with their snouts and make playful squealing noises that bounce through the water and vibrate your body. Feel the healing vibrations. Wiggle your body and dive down, down deep into the sea. Feel supported by playful dolphins swimming all around you. Now swim upward, breaking through the waves, hurling your body through the air in a dolphin leap. You are free and happy and strong, surrounded by dolphin love. Know that you are pure joy and movement. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Healing Moon Beam:

MoonbeamBreathe in and out three times slowly. Look to the moon.  See its bright, clean light enter your body.  Feel the moon beam fill you with a cool, gentle, healing light. The moon is silent and soothing. Let it fill your whole self up with healing moon beams. Know that the moon is always watching over you, even when you cannot see it because of the brightness of day. Know that you are always in the moon’s embrace, safe and protected. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Octopus Suction:

OctopusBreathe in and out three times slowly. A playful octopus enters your body and starts suctioning up all the cells that have illness in them. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp. The octopus is hungry. When he has grabbed all the cells with illness inside, he makes a big burp. You and the octopus laugh. You didn’t know that octopuses can burp! The bad cells float away in the water’s current. The octopus leaves your body and swims away. Grab a bunch of sea kelp from the bottom of the coral reef. Swallow it and feel it swim all around your body. Enjoy swimming around the sea. Know that you are clean and light. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Honey Tree:

HoneytreeBreathe in and out three times slowly. You are walking through a field. You stand tall and your arms are relaxed at your sides. You see a strong and beautiful tree and walk towards it. It is a giant honey tree with a thick brown trunk and lots of branches with bright, healthy green leaves. You see honey sap oozing out of some of the nooks in the trunk. Sit under the tree and enjoy the shade. Taste some of the golden sap and let it fill your body with healing warmth. Feel the honey travelling through your body filling you with warmth and sweetness. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.






Loving Puppy:

DogBreathe in and out three times slowly. Puppy starts to nuzzle you and play. Feel her love as she tumbles around gently licking your arms, legs, and face.  Puppy makes you smile. Together you laugh and roll around on the grass. Throw the ball to the puppy. You tumble through the grass, chasing the ball, shedding all of your aches and hurt. Now toss a bone to the puppy, she digs up a big hole and puts the bone into the hole. You throw your pain into the hole as puppy uses her paws to cover it up. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.





Here are some additional healing Imagery exercises for children and adults that were created by world-renowned imagery expert, Dr. Gerald Epstein. Dr. Epstein is the Founder of the American Institute for Mental Imagery (AIMI). Lisa is earning a certificate at AIMI.

Dr. Gerald Epstein is a pioneer in the field of mind body medicine. He has written thirteen books. His book, Healing Visualizations: Creating Health Through Imagery, is considered the classic text of mental imagery exercises for healing. For thirty years, Dr. Epstein has helped patients reintegrate their minds, spirits and bodies through will, memory and imagination to heal virtually every kind of disease and prevent illness. He is on the Faculty of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and the Founder and Director of the American Institute for Mental Imagery. He is also the author of Healing Visualizations (Bantam), Healing into Immortality and Climbing Jacob’s Ladder (ACMI Press). He is married and has two children. Below are some visualizations that Jerry has created for patients and their families.


Visualization for Children: Correct the Memory

This is a useful corrective visualization to help your child get through painful medical procedures. Replace the highlighted situation with the appropriate language that works for your child’s medical condition. It is helpful for you to guide the child through the visualization every morning for 21 days. Make a little check list and post it by the child’s bed so you can keep track of your progress. Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in and out three times. Experience your memory of getting a shot (substitute what is appropriate for the child here) for a moment. Breathe in and out. Now see yourself getting a shot but you are in a big ship and it is a nice warm sunny day. You are watching the waves bob up and down and listening to the seagulls flying overhead. You close your eyes and take a nice nap on the ship’s deck. (You can invite the child to substitute a situation here that they would enjoy or you can create one that you know they will appreciate). Breathe out. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Children: Fear

When a child gets sick it is often disorienting and scary. One of the scariest parts of childhood illness can be the fear of being left alone to confront the illness or to die. Naturally these feelings are heightened if your child is in the hospital and if you are not sleeping with them each night. This next visualization gives them some strategies to combat their fears. Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Breathe in and out three times slowly. Think about what you are afraid of. What does your fear look like? What is it doing? Tell me what you see. (Here the child describes what their fear looks like. For example a 3 or 5 year old says they are afraid of the dark because they think there are monsters in the room. Put an imaginary knife under their pillow. Tell the child the knife is there to kill the monsters if they need to. Do not be afraid to let the child kill monsters if the child thinks the monster is in their room to kill them). Okay, now let’s make your fear go away. (Invite the child to reverse the image, for example say to them, now let’s kill that monster. What do you see? The child sees the monster dying or disappearing. If the child does not see an antidote, guide them by helping them to see something that will reverse the image of fear). Tell me what you see. Take a deep breath and exhale. Know that the fear is gone. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Children: Anger

It is pretty hard to talk about childhood illness without thinking about anger. Anger is a very powerful and draining emotion for everyone involved. The root of the word anger means constriction. This next visualization focuses on anger and gives you helpful tools first to express and then to diminish anger. You can guide the child through the exercise. Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in and out three times. See your anger take a form. What does it look like? What is it doing? Tell me what you see. (Here the person describes what their anger looks like. For example, one person sees enormous flames of anger.) Okay, now let’s see the opposite. (Invite the child to reverse the image, for example say to them, now let’s put out those flames. What do you see? The child sees a fire engine arrive on the scene to put out the flames. If the child does not see an antidote or a way to reverse the image, you can guide them by suggesting something that will reverse his or her image of anger). Tell me what you see. Breathe in and out. Know that the anger is gone. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Children With Brain Tumors: Yellow Submarine

This visualization is done three times a day–once early in the morning, again at 5 PM, and once more before bed, for 21 days. Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Breathe out three times slowly. See yourself inside a yellow submarine. The sub has a porthole, a propeller in front, searchlight on top, and a vacuum hose underneath. You are the pilot. Take the yellow submarine to the tumor. Use the searchlight to show you the way. When you get to the tumor, let me know. Good. Now let the propeller churn up the tumor, breaking it into little pieces. Use your light to see everything going on. Now the vacuum hose sucks up all the broken pieces. Look at the place where the tumor was. The tumor has disappeared and this part of your body looks perfectly normal, as all the area has been filled in with healthy cells. Now turn your submarine around and leave your brain. Breathe out. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Children With Leukemia: Forest

This visualization is done three times a day–once early in the morning, again at 5 PM, and once more before bed, for 21 days. Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in and exhale. See yourself in a beautiful forest. The wonderful animals are dancing, prancing, and moving up and down through the forest paths. Know that life is coming back to your bloodstream and all of your vital organs and that your white blood count becomes normal. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Children With Leukemia: Tropical Fish

Here’s what you say to the child: Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in and out three times slowly. See yourself swimming easily in and among schools of brightly colored tropical fish. Sense and see the movement of these fish as they swim in rhythm and their colors enter into you and fill you with light, life and health. Know that you are being restored to perfect health as your white cells return to normal. Take a deep breath and exhale. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Adults: Wheat Field

This exercise is designed to rejuvenate you and keep you strong. You can do it by yourself each morning, before you go to sleep at night and throughout the day whenever you feel anxious or exhausted. You can do this exercises by yourself or ask a friend or loved one to guide you through. Close your eyes. Breathe out 3 times slowly. Imagine yourself carrying a basket in a beautiful field. You are collecting golden grains and separating the wheat from the chaff. You take grains of wheat and fill your basket to overflowing. You leave the extra wheat on the ground for the animals to eat. At the end of the field, you see your farmhouse with smoke gently coming out of the chimney. You walk with your basket towards the house. In the center of the house is a large country kitchen. You come into the kitchen and lay out all the ingredients – the grains, a rolling pin, everything you need to make bread. You knead the dough and roll it and make the bread. You put your bread into a huge open hearth to bake. You watch the bread bake and see it slowly rising. You smell the delicious bread baking. Take your bread out of the hearth and cut a slice. Eat as much as you like. When you need to, you can go back to the farmhouse to get more bread or take a piece out of your pocket. You can eat your bread and sustain yourself throughout the entire day. Open your eyes.


Visualization for Adults: Seashore

This exercise is designed to rejuvenate you and keep you strong. You can do it by yourself each morning, before you go to sleep at night and throughout the day whenever you feel anxious or exhausted. You can do this exercises by yourself or ask a friend or loved one to guide you through.

Close your eyes. Breathe out 3 times slowly. You’re on the beach heading toward the water, fully clothed. As you move toward the water, you start taking off your clothes, one piece at a time. Empty your pockets of everything. If you are carrying a bag or purse, empty it of all its contents, keeping only what is indispensable. When you are completely naked, make yourself an abrasive compound of sand and water. Cleanse yourself with this pumice. Know that you are cleaning away all the unnecessary accumulations outside of your body and that you are also cleaning away the inner gloom and confusion at the same time. When you’re done, dive into the sea and immerse yourself fully. Cleanse yourself of any residue that may be left with sand from the bottom of the sea. Come out of the water and let the sun dry you off for a moment. Then, put on a new set of clothing that you find there. Breathe out. Open your eyes.

The Value of High Quality Connections

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0

Watch author Jane Dutton and Soaringwords’ Founder Lisa Buksbaum discuss how High Quality Connections can infuse each day with meaning and well-being, even in the midst of serious illness and other setbacks. Learn how strangers and hospital employees, other patients and family members can provide High Quality Connections that can be for just a few seconds and yet have a lasting impact.


How to Collect and Share Family Stories

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0

61b3bZl5O4LIn “Bringing the Story Home: The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents”, author Lisa Lipkin shares how storytelling can bring families together.

On an ordinary afternoon in 1967, I came home crying. “Mrs. Ross is the meanest teacher I’ve ever had!,” I blurted out from behind a torrent of tears. My father, a street smart Brooklynite with a chronic twinkle in his eye, knew the perfect antidote for my grammar school woes. “You think your teacher is mean?!,” he said. You don’t know what mean is until you’ve experienced Miss Moldy.” He proceeded to describe his third grade school marm, a 1930’s disciplinarian with wire-rim glasses and a black dress buttoned to her chin, whose merciless gaze and “spanking stick” kept even the naughtiest students at bay. Apparently, one day my father came late to school. Ms. Moldy, a stickler for tardiness, made him bend over and was about to spank him in front of his classmates when fate intervened. At that very moment there was a fire drill, and my father escaped his public flogging. I was mesmerized by my dad’s anecdote. Suddenly, my own situation with nasty Mrs. Ross didn’t seem so bad after all. In sharing his story with me, my father not only put things into perspective, but comforted me by reminding me of our common experience. Instinctively, he understood that in revealing his personal stories he would not only be showing me a side of himself, but schooling me in some of life’s most important lessons.

Family stories are our finest teachers. Though not always factually accurate, they tell us an awful lot about a family member’s hopes, fears and dreams. They provide us with a strong sense of right and wrong, and convey to children guiding principals and morals. They are also one of the best ways to get close to your kids. By revealing your past, you’re allowing your children to know you in a fully dimensional light. Unfortunately, our high tech, fast paced technological age, has relegated family stories to the back burners of our lives. We’ve forgotten that storytelling provides automatic companionship, a sense of belonging, roots to grab hold of. We’ve forgotten its ability to soothe an aching spirit and transcend our immediate worries. In our rush to move forward, we’ve forgotten that unless we hear the stories of where we have been, we can’t begin to understand where we are going. But even if you have a strong desire to collect and share your family’s rich folklore, where do you begin? For starters, you need let go of the notion that you have to be a professional storyteller or folklorist in order to extract great stories from your kin.

Everyone has a story in them and there is no greater joy than sharing those anecdotes with others. Once you get started, you’ll be amazed by how willing people are to share their stories. As a professional storyteller, I’ve seen the tremendous power that stories wield in bringing families together. I’ve developed the following guidelines over the last ten years working in schools, community centers, museums and festivals. Even if they seem silly at first, try them anyway. You’ll be amazed at how well they work. Remember, in creating a home filled with stories, you are giving your kids a tremendous gift, one filled with knowledge of the past and a strong foundation for future growth.

MEMORY MAPS SUPPLIES: Paper and pencil

Recollections of play can be the best vehicle for tapping into memory. Draw a map of your favorite spot where you played as a child and a particular story that happened at that site and share it with your children. Once your children are familiar with the activity, have them ask other family members to do the same. As a follow-up activity, encourage your children to keep a scrap book of these play maps along with their accompanying stories. Make sure they mark which family member belongs to each map.


All of us remember precious family keepsakes from our childhoods. Even if the actual objects have disappeared, they exist in your personal storehouse of memories. Pull them out and share them with your kids by doing the following: Drop an imaginary chest on the floor, filled with your favorite childhood objects. Take them out, one by one and describe them to your kids in vivid detail. Start by pulling out your favorite doll, describing her clothes, the texture of her skin, her smile. Or reach in and find your mother’s elegant felt hat, and describe how she placed it on her head and how it looked on her as she strolled down the street. Remember, kids love to imagine. As long as you create a visual picture of the object, describing it with as much detail as possible, your children will have no trouble seeing it


Pull a ring of keys from your pocket after dinner. Choose one key and describe an adventure or a funny thing that happened inside the room it opens. Perhaps the key to the attic reminds you of a diary you store there, filled with childhood memories. Or maybe your car key makes you think of the time you dropped an entire ice cream cone on the front seat. Whoops! Have other family members do the same with their keys. Even the simplest stories and memories will fascinate your children.


Throw out the name of an object, any object. Take turns sharing any personal story, memory, or anecdote inspired by that object. For example, the word GARLIC might remind you of your grandmother’s kitchen, and the delicious family meals she cooked on Sunday afternoons. Or the word DIAMOND might help you recall the time you proposed to your wife, or the time you went shopping with your husband for your ring. Have your children call out the name of objects too. Remember: Everyone has a story to tell, no matter how silly or insignificant it might seem to you. Sharing even the smallest memory with your children will fascinate them.


Ask your child to be the host of a talk show in which you are the guest. But instead of playing yourself, become a person from your past. Perhaps you’re that strict grammar school principal you dreaded. Or maybe the friendly post man who always patted you on the head as he walked by. Have your child ask you questions about your life. Involve other family members by making them audience members who may have questions to ask. Reverse roles. Have your child become a character from his past and you become the host.


“Firsts” are always memorable and can be the best way for tapping into your relatives’ stories. Ask them to describe their first… Bicycle Ice Cream Cone Trip away from home Fancy Party Car House Pet Teacher Job School Dance Make up other firsts too and add them to your list


Family expressions are the poetry of everyday life. If you think long enough, you’ll will be able to recall a turn of phrase or a set of words that were used within the inner circle of your family. For example, Margaret Clark, a 36 year old educator from Washington, D.C. recalls: ‘When I was young I brought my brother a book for his birthday, a biography of Houdini. He had barely unwrapped it when I grabbed it back from him and ran away and hid for the rest of the birthday party and read the book. It was a big joke that I had bought him a book which I obviously wanted. So ever after that, anytime anyone gave a gift that was clearly something that the giver wanted perhaps more than the givee, it was called a ‘Houdini.’ Here’s how you can start this exercise— A family expression used around my house is: The story that started it was:



 Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve ever had a backyard barbecue on Memorial Day or called your dog with a particular sound, you’ve established a family custom. The shared activities we call customs are often unique to each family. Often, they begin with a story. For example, when my father was a little boy, milk would be delivered in glass bottles, straight from the dairy farms. Since milk wasn’t homogenized back then, the cream would separate from the rest and float to the top of my father’s cup. In order to mix it all up, he would have to shake his cup in a circular motion before drinking. The funny thing is, he still shakes his cup today-regardless of what he’s drinking! Many families enjoy the fact that they have certain traditions, even if they are experienced only on special occasions. Stella Fraser from Mexico recalls: The biggest thing at Christmas is having tamales Christmas Eve. We’d go to mass and come back and have hot tamales, and coffee. Like I say, we didn’t have many gifts; the food was really the thing that brought everybody together. It wasn’t so much a religious holiday as it was rejoicing that we’d had another good year of being together. For David Naor, who grew up in Israel, Friday nights had a special meaning: Every Friday night, just after the sun set, I would visit my grandmother who lived a few blocks away, and read her the Sabbath prayers. It was understood that this was the accepted ritual-every Friday night, my grandmother would wait for me to come. Family customs not only mark time, but they tell a wonderful story about the individual natures of families. Help your children recall some of your own customs here: Describe a family custom: The story behind it is: