How Early Memories Help Us in Life

April 21, 2014

B and Girls
Holidays like Easter and Passover involve a lot of remembering and re-telling stories of events that happened a long time ago. Memories play such an important role in our lives — and this article in the Wall Street Journal says that our ability to draw on different kinds of memories predicts higher levels of well-being, purpose, and positive relationships later on.

The article points out that parents play the biggest role in helping children retain memories — as well as interpret those memories, so they can learn from past experiences. Mothers in particular are key to this process, because they tend to use a conversational style with children:

The key behavior by mothers is “deflecting” conversation back to the child—that is, tossing the ball back to the child repeatedly by asking, say, “We really had fun, didn’t we?” or, “Tell me more,” she says, based on findings published last year.

Studies cited in the article show that children whose parents encourage reminiscing and storytelling about daily events are better at coping and problem-solving and show fewer symptoms of depression by their preteens. Knowing that gives more meaning to the way B and I encourage sharing about our days at the dinner table, reminiscing about things we’ve done, and recalling memories we’ve made together as a family.

Do you have many early memories? (I have quite a few around the age of 4 — maybe a bit younger — but nothing prior to that.) If you’re a parent, do you tend do a lot of story-telling about events and reminiscing about the past?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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1 Alex April 21, 2014 at 11:54 am

I LOVE this! It is something I naturally do in my practice as a teacher of 7 year olds and I am pleased to see some evidence (albeit in a family and not a school setting)! I find that sharing positive memories tends to also make for a happier classroom – it really changes the atmosphere and it is how we start our day. I hope to be able to practise this with my children one day…

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2 Karen April 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm

When I was a little girl I would beg my father to tell me an “incident”–my name for one of his stories about his boyhood. I loved hearing these memories, which helped me to know my father better, as well as his family and the times he lived in. I am the one in my family who “keeps the memories”; and, when our nine children were growing up, I in my turn told them many stories of my childhood, as well as stories I remembered from my dad, and reminiscences of other family members–including ones who had passed on and they would never meet. I also encouraged the children to remember their own past in our family–what we had done for holidays in previous years, vacations, happy ordinary-day memories. I think my children–now all adults or nearly adults–value these memories, and that the memories help them interpret who they are and what has influenced them. The memories that we share also strengthen our family ties. Zoe, you mentioned sharing and reminiscing around the dinner table. This family meal is key, in my experience.
Some of my children’s friends have commented on the length of our family dinners, and the extensive conversation that goes on during the meal. Many have never experienced it, but they universally like it.

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3 P Flooers May 1, 2014 at 8:51 am

Wow, if this doesn’t justify Mommy Blogs, I don’t know what would. Thanks!

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