Children openly and eagerly enjoy sharing insights and observations with adults. It is important to start building a good rapport from a young age. Here are three ways you can encourage children to share their personal stories, whether it’s at home or in your classroom.
1. Tell a story about your own childhood
Remember that children are accustomed to seeing you as a grown-up. They have no concept of you as a child; just the same way that they often think their teacher’s first name is “Miss” or “Mister.” Open up a bit about yourself as a child. Try sharing some photos, toys, or other remnants of the past and tell them about what it was like growing up. Talk about family life, the kinds of foods you ate, and the kinds of activities you did in your free time. Introduce them to old customs and traditions that they may not be familiar with, and encourage them to think about others’ experiences of growing up in a different country.
Not only will this serve as an example of how to share a personal story, it will also help your child relate to you on a different level. You can even expand this exercise by encouraging your child to share an object or story that sums up their own childhood.
2. Get kids to write a letter to their future selves
This is a great, fun exercise that will help you explore the idea of growing up and people and places changing over time.
Get your kids to write a letter to their future selves – say at 16 – and describe what their lives are like now. Encourage them to think about how they would like to remember their childhood when they are grown up, and suggest they include a mixture of fond, happy, and even sad memories.
This is the perfect low-stress way for children to begin thinking about who they are, where they belong, and where they came from, as well as spending some time reflecting on their life.
3. Read with them
Of course, reading a relatable story to your child always helps to break the ice and give them some ideas to explore. My book Catch that Cat! is a great learning tool to help children connect, share, and create meaning inspired by their favourite places, people and pets.