Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

How to Get Mom or Dad to Tell a Life Story.

November 18, 2009 · Leave a Comment

Sometimes I encounter an adult son or daughter who’s  had no success in convincing a parent to record a life story.

My experience has been that if people are really reluctant, it may be very hard to nudge them into documenting their lives. I hope these tips may be of help.

  • Don’t make it sound daunting. You don’t want to create the impression that your parents have to toil away writing down every detail of their lives from birth to the present. You might say something like, “Mom, you’ve told me some great stories over the years. I’d really like to capture some of them so that your grandchildren will know more about your life. It would be a wonderful gift for them.”
  • Explain that you’ll help. You can say something like, I can bring over a recorder and we could just sit and chat about some of your favorite memories. What do you think?”
  • Suggest some different approaches. As I explained in a previous post, there’s more than one way to tell a life story. You can do it chronologically or thematically. Or you can focus on major turning points.
  • Counter the myth. One of the favorite reasons for not documenting a life story is the one that goes, “Oh my life isn’t all that interesting.”  Sound familiar? Explain to your parent that you’re not looking for interesting. What you treasure are the stories that illuminate a different time. What you want to know is what it was like living before the advent of television, computers, supermarkets, and so on. What you value is the wisdom accumulated along the way – the life lessons. What you want to hear are the things  that made  mom or dad proud, happy, and sometimes sad.

In a previous post,  6 Reasons Why Writing Your Life Story Matters, you’ll find some other good arguments to help convince your parent to record a life story. Good luck!

Photo by protoflux

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Categories: How to · Life stories · Memoirs · Personal historian · Tips
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