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How to Write About Your Childhood

We hear so much in the news today about people doing DNA tests to trace their ancestry. But people often forget that access to their heritage is as close as grandma and grandpa! Telling stories about ourselves and our family is how we connect to our past and those who came before.

As people grow (and particularly once they have children of their own) its only natural that they begin to wonder more about where they and their family came from. So even if right now you think no one would be interested in your life story, you may find that in a few years (or perhaps a few decades) your children and grandchildren will thank you for the time you took to record your experiences and give them insight into your life.

Here are some suggestions for how to get started:

Work In A Medium That Suits You

These days you aren’t restricted to just pen and paper, or even to a computer when you’re chronicling your life story. The LifeTales app has great options for recording and sharing photos, audio, and video so you can recount your story as easily as if you were talking to a friend or loved one.

Don’t Worry About Starting at the Beginning

Childhood is a natural place to start your reminiscences, but don’t get hung up on chronology. Focus on writing or recording any good story, or any memories that stand out. Then tell another. And another. You can order and organized them later.

Don’t Leave Out the Details

While they might seem mundane to you, it’s the little details—the little differences from life today--about where and how you grew up that will be of interest. Did you grow up overseas? On a farm? How was your city different decades ago when you were growing up? These details will stand out to your children and grandchildren precisely because they’re so different from their experiences today. That’s interesting!

It’s Okay to Repeat Yourself

You may think your family has heard a story a million times already, but that doesn’t mean its not worth including. They may have heard the story from someone else’s perspective. You might have a unique perspective or specific details on the events. Maybe you tell the story better than anyone else! Don’t risk leaving something out that future generations may find interesting or entertaining just because your family now has heard the tale before.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Your family wants to know about your actual life, so resist any temptation to embellish (for better or worse!) You family wants to learn more about you, and maybe even look for lessons they can apply to their own lives, so hearing about what actually happened (and not a tall tale) is what will help them most.

No Need For a Tell-All

But while honesty is best, remember: you’re also not writing a tell-all. Everyone has things in their past that are difficult to talk about or relive. Maybe there is a difficult childhood, family trauma, or personal tragedy. There may be things that are simply too painful, or which you prefer to keep private. That’s okay. You’re the author of your own story, so what you include (or don’t) is entirely your choice. Your story can still be rich and interesting without these moments.

Some Questions to Prompt You

  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • Tell me about the house you grew up in.
  • Did you ever move house / town / country when you were a child?
  • What was life like with your parents? With your siblings?
  • Tell me about your other relatives and family members.
  • What are some funny moments you remember from your childhood?
  • What are some family sayings you remember?
  • What are some stories that you remember hearing from family members?
  • Who was your childhood best friend? Tell me about them.
  • What were your days at school like? 
  • Tell me about your favourite teachers.
  • What subjects did you love in school? Which ones did you not like?
  • What were some extracurricular activities you did in school? (i.e.: sports, music, drama, etc.)
  • Tell me about your favourites songs growing up (can also be books, movies, and TV shows.)
  • Tell me about some rites of passage (i.e.: social events, cultural events, religious events/rituals, etc.)
  • Tell me about what it was like to live through major historical events? (e.g.: Where were you when astronauts landed on the moon?)
  • What role did religion / spirituality play in your life growing up?
  • What were family gatherings like? 
  • Tell me about holiday traditions when you were growing up.
  • Did you have any beloved pets when you were a child?
  • Tell me about your favourite hobbies and games when you were growing up.
  • Tell me about some successes you remember.
  • Tell me about some failure you remember.
  • Who influenced you when you were a child?