How To Share Family Stories With Your Daughter
There was a TV program several years ago called “This Is Your Life”. In this show, the host would take the guest back to their childhood, discuss where they were born, whether there were siblings, what things they got up to as a child. The show uncovered hardship and joyous moments in the guest’s history and friends and relatives appeared on the show to share their special memories.
It was a heart-warming and illuminating show of a person’s lived experience.
A Mother’s History
Adult daughters often comment to me that they want to know about their mother, they feel they don’t know her well and want to be more informed of her history. Daughters are curious about their mums.
Who was she before being named Mum?
What was mum’s relationship with her mother?
What was her relationship with her siblings like?
What was she like as a child?
Daughters may know some of their mother’s history, and some of her trauma. Daughters want to explore more about what makes mother tick.
Who has she been told that she looks like? Where did she get the strength of character to overcome hardship?
Finding out who your mother was, and is now, helps put the pieces of the family puzzle together in a more coherent manner, and may help you uncover the questions you have wondered about.
One of the reasons that I collect information about three generations of the female line of the family, in consultation with mothers and daughters, is that it is an invaluable tool into the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, giving insight into the patterns and conflict of family, helping to understand the current issues of disconnection.
When a daughter hears her mother’s story and the narrative of her grandmother’s life, the joy and heartache of their ancestors, a daughter understands and appreciates the generational experience and tries to imagine what it was like to be ‘in their shoes’. She gains empathy and compassion for her mother and grandmother. As she learns the reasons her mother struggled to be the nurturing and caring mother the daughter desperately wanted, she develops understanding towards her mother.
Knowing your mother’s story, your grandmother’s story, the female line of your history, is walking inside your own story.
Connections with past generations of mothers and daughters, connections with the future generations of mothers and daughters.
Who Am I Within My Family?
Dr Robyn Fivush, Professor of Psychology, and Director Family Narratives Lab, Emory University, Georgia wrote:
“Family reminiscing is a unique opportunity in which families share their past experiences together. Creating a shared history by reminiscing helps to maintain emotional bonds within a family. Children are also learning about how to conceptualise themselves within the family. Who am I? What kind of experiences have I had? How do I relate to other people? And how does my past experience help me understand who I am today?”
Reflecting on the past may not heal all the hurt and trauma you have experienced growing up in your family. It can help to gain a deeper understanding of issues within your generational family and to place yourself inside your family, as your mother’s daughter, and your mother as her mother’s daughter. Viewing the female identity within your family.
Dr Robyn Fivush commented:
“When we listen to others’ stories, we enter their worlds and see things through their eyes….When we identify strongly with someone, their stories are more immediately connected to our own sense of self. As we get older and our experiences widen, so does our need to share stories more widely, both to initiate new relationships and to deepen existing ones. Through shared stories, we create shared worlds.”
Dr Dan McAdams, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University Illinois said:
“….teachers and parents have a big impact with respect to narrative identity. This impact can be positive in the sense that they encourage us in certain directions and we go in that direction. But it can also be negative, as when an authoritative figure presents a certain kind of identity and we try to resist it. We say, ‘I don’t want to be that way. I’m not going to live a life like my mother. I’m not going to follow this path or that path.’ Either way, we have to confront this menu of different narrative options that are presented to us in everyday life. And we pick and choose, appropriate and reconstruct, based on that menu.”
Ideas You Might Like To Try:
- To share special moments together, getting out of the house can remove distractions where you both can just focus on each other – one wanting to hear the stories, the other wanting to share the stories. Go for a drive, chat in the car. At a café. Take a walk in the park.
- If it’s difficult to get out of the house, prepare a meal together. Food opens up much conversation.
- Set up a video to capture the interaction between family members or video only your mum talking. If either of you are not comfortable with being videoed, do an audio recording, otherwise write notes and transcribe more fully later. This “live” interview will be special to pass down to the younger generation.
- Ask your mother first if it is okay to video or do audio. She may share things just with you but there may be some things that are too sensitive for her to discuss on video or audio. Respect her choice.
- Prepare your questions ahead of time so that you can be clear in what you are asking.
- Have a printed copy of the questions. This may help simplify your time together so that your mother can look at the question and consider her answer.
- Go through photos and find out who the ancestors are. Who made a big impact in your mother’s family?
- Hearing family stories may put you on the path of creating a scrapbook to preserve family stories.
- Talk about the hardships and accomplishments that your mother and your grandmother experienced.
- Ask your mother what her hopes and dreams were when she was a girl. Did those change when she grew into adulthood, or did others in her family decide what your mother’s outcomes would be?
- What are your mother’s hopes and dreams now?
Walk in your mother’s shoes, your grandmother’s shoes and allow a compassionate space for authenticity.
If you feel this article has been helpful, please take a moment to share this from my blog so other women can be encouraged and supported in their journey to understand the mothers and daughters that have gone before them.
As a Mother-Daughter Coach, I support women in their mother-daughter relationship. I see women on their own or as a mother-daughter couple.
Need to talk more about your relationship with your mother or daughter? Need more information or to book an appointment? Feel free to get in touch. Click the link here.
Image: Unsplash, Pam Sharpe
Janice Williams is a Certified Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist.
Janice offers in-person and online appointments. Online sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.