May 292007

Background for interview with Jim Everett on Sirius Radio
“Sieze The Day”, with Gus Lloyd – Due to air June 4, 2007

A recent Emory University study highlighted the value to children’s emotional health and self-esteem of sharing stories of family events before they were born.

The best way to share events and stories is with photographs, especially prints for younger kids. Prints are easy to share, hold, duplicate, replace and are more tangible than on a computer.

Seeing their parents as young children helps today’s kids see their own place and future.

Young children who have lost a parent, or with an absent parent, say on active military service, need photos of that parent to keep them real in their minds.

Gather older photographs, your own or others spread around the family. That way the kids in different branches can see the glimpses into the collective family life and recent history.

Share your collection of valuable memories by making scrapbooks or albums, wall collages or slide shows in digital picture frames. When kids move out or go away to college, give them their own scrapbook collection of prints, as well as digital images.

Shared stories about the past have a positive impact on kids. Why not do it around the dinner table. Prints can be passed around (use copies so they can be replaced). Not just at the dinner table – turn the TV off one evening. Use a family album for a bedtime story. Or make fun time on a weekend.

Remember tomorrow. Take photos now with a view to preserving the memories of today for future generations. Put parents in the shot, not just pictures just of one’s own kids. Here are tips for making images for future family stories.

Plan the content of the pictures. Choose images that reflect our life and times, and the relationship between the generations today. In 50 years, today’s pictures will be priceless time capsules – treasured windows to the past.

Include pictures of yourself with your children. One day our children’s children will ask for today’s pictures of their Mom and Dad with Grandma and Grandpa.

Preserve those little moments that reflect day-to-day life and interactions with candid snaps.

Capture the essence of big events with intimate shots. At family reunions and family events, take lots of pictures of candid and special interactions between people – not just the obligatory posed group pictures.

Learn to use the camera before an important occasion. Play with a camera, read the instructions, get to know it. Take lots shots of everyday subjects and events. When that important moment arrives, you’ll be ready to capture it in time, in focus and at the right exposure.

Share the prints. Smaller children like to have their own pictures of the family. It is so easy and inexpensive these days with photo labs and online print services to let children have their own print collection. Maybe even pictures the kids have taken. Or copies made of earlier family pictures, that the kids call their own.

And it won’t just be your kids and family that find the collections interesting. A Getty Center exhibition in LA – “Close to Home”, featuring hundreds of ordinary snaphshots of life in America between 1930 and 1970 drew more people to see it than to a concurrent Cezanne Exhibition.

Here are a few ways to use photos and stories for family talk” (adapted from the RealAge list):
– Ask your kids to write up stories from the family’s past. Provide photos and let them use them in the story.
– Tell your kids a story about their grandparents and use photos to illustrate it.
– Help your children research your family’s genealogy or create a family tree, and use photos that show the people.
– Create a family history wall and use prints. Scan and enlarge old prints.

Stories that might be particularly interesting:
– Where did the grandparents grow up? Are there pictures of them in that place?
– Are there photos of parents doing things together and having fun
– Are there school photos of the parents, or even grandparents?
– Are there pictures of difficult times, sad events, or even pets that have died?

According to researchers, hearing how family members coped during difficult times is especially important when helping children develop resiliency. Don’t gloss over negative events. Share the good and the bad, but be positive. And have fun!

Encourage others in your family or outside it to capture and print pictures that will delight and inform generations to come.

Jim Everett
Concept and content inspired by and draws from article “When Your Were Just a Baby…” at
Originally published on 04/02/2007.
Tip References: Family narrative interaction and children’s sense of self. Bohanek, J. G., Marin, K. A., Fivush, R., Duke, M. P. Family Process 2006 Mar;45(1):39-54.


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