Building a Family Narrative and American History

Bruce Feiler of the New York Times wrote a thoughtful and important article about the importance of family narratives in a child’s health and resilience. He says the healthiest kids are those children who know their history, are aware of the positive and negative stories in the family, and who have heard repeatedly that the family overcomes obstacles and moves forward together. I agree wholeheartedly with this article, and think it is particularly important for expats. Read the full article here: The Stories that Bind Us, The New York Times.

Expat Life

The expat child doesn’t have a clear sense of home. They fall in love with a multitude of places, here a variety of languages, and experience a mishmash of cultures. They follow their families to multiple locations and often struggle to define their sense of self and place. A family narrative can make a big difference in this child’s life, showing through stories where they come from and who they are.

American History

Feiler doesn’t mention this, but I believe a part of this narrative is and should be the larger narrative of our country and our culture. A child should know the specifics of the family history within the larger context of their countries history. How fought in the wars and what happened? Who protested against the government? What is the community like and how has that changed over time? 

Stories to Tell

  1. How did geography affect where and how your family lived?
  2. Does your family have an immigrant narrative? Trace the path.
  3. How did the major wars affect your ancestors?
  4. How have the countries economic situation affected your family.
  5. What government programs have helped your family (free public education, police and fire services, road and bridge building, the food and safety administration, etc.)
  6. What political parties does your family connect with and why? Has there ever been family strife over politics? How did you get over it?
  7. Track your grandparents life through the presidents they lived under. What was life like under each president?
  8. Have your child write down their years and then create a timeline with major family events and major cultural and political events.
  9. List your favorite things about being an American.
  10. List your favorite things about being in your family.
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