I believe grandparents are natural storytellers, and our stories have a bigger purpose than simply entertaining the grandkids. Many of our stories can help them grow in discernment and will likely become part of the legacy we’re building of family history and life-giving wisdom. Maybe even better, your stories can add extra meaning and significance to your time with your grandchildren. 

As the default family historian, you are the keeper of the family stories, the one responsible for making sure they get passed down to future generations. The stories may be about our parents and grandparents or from our own lives. Every life has a story. We succeeded in some pursuits and failed at others. We enjoy fond memories yet feel the sting of regrets. People have said things that encouraged and discouraged us, that challenged us and hurt us. Each one of us has received incredible blessings and overcome daunting obstacles. A real-life adventure based on our own life experiences is definitely a special story for the grandkids, and in most cases they’ll be eager to hear your stories and know more about you. 

For those who may not feel like a natural storyteller, here are four suggestions to get you started: 

  1. Collect your memories. Do some brainstorming with a pen and paper, computer, or voice recorder handy. You don’t want your stories to seem canned or staged when you tell them, but it does make sense to think about what kind of stories you want to tell and then be prepared to share them. 

Think about your childhood, family members, and the events you lived through that shaped who you are. Capture some memories about when your children—your grandkids’ parents—were young. Describe your faith journey, favorite teachers or mentors, accomplishments in sports, music, academics or drama. What were your greatest victories and biggest challenges? Your favorite places to explore? Your moments of heroism or embarrassment?

Another great way to remember stories is to sit down with your grandkids and look through old photo albums. Almost every picture will have a good story behind it. Or maybe you can start by focusing on a virtue that you’d like to teach, like generosity or self-sacrifice. What people or events in your life helped you learn to appreciate that virtue? 

  1. Have a lesson or principle in mind. You don’t want to make your time with your grandkids feel like you’re giving a lecture, but so often there are life truths that flow naturally from our stories, and it makes sense to briefly mention those. 

What did you learn through the events you’re describing? What moral does the story illustrate? You could also share—in an age-appropriate way—about a mistake or misstep you made. Talk about what you have learned from it and add, “Maybe you can avoid my foolishness if you’re in a similar situation someday.” Your grandkids may also get a stronger sense of family history, and the lessons may help them navigate life as they grow and mature.

  1. Use a story to affirm your grandchild. Stories can be useful when you want to express appreciation for a grandchild’s personality, achievements, or virtues. You could say, for example, “When I was a child, I didn’t get along with my sister, and it makes me so happy to see you help your sister” or “Growing up, my dad was always smiling, and when I saw him it made me smile too. When I see you smile, it reminds me of my dad.” Tying a story about a personal experience to a grandchild’s character affirms him or her and creates a touchpoint for future reference.
  2. Be engaging. As you’re telling a story, add emotion, drama or humor where appropriate. Watch your grandkids’ faces for their reactions. Get them involved by asking, “What do you suppose happened next?” or “What do you think about that?”

So go ahead and tell your stories. Just start with “I remember when…” and I know you’ll have your grandchildren’s attention.

 Many of you are surely expert storytellers with your grandkids. What other tips or best practices would you add? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

This was adapted from Dr. Ken Canfield’s book, The HEART of Grandparenting. Find out more and get your copy here