Researchers have begun to establish a causal link between storytelling and thriving. In 2001, psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fvush compared children's psychological health with their knowledge of their own family history. They measured this knowledge on a "Do You Know?" scale. This scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children's emotional health and happiness.

The more children knew their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Two months after this study was conducted, the September 11 attacks occurred. The psychologists went back and studied how the same group of children responded to that trauma. The results were the same: "The ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress."

To explain the connection between story and resilience, the psychologists coined the term ‘intergenerational self.’ It's a sense that you're part of something bigger, that your life is an episode in a larger narrative. More than just entertain and amuse, (which they do) cross-generational stories serve another purpose.

Family stories let children know that they're not alone, and that those who came before them celebrated triumphs and overcame struggles, just as they do.

Additionally, in a study of family stories at Emory University, it was found that family stories seem to be transferred by mothers and grandmothers more often than not, and that the information was typically passed during family dinners, family vacations and family holidays. Other data indicated that these very same regular family dinners, vacations, and holiday celebrations occur more frequently in families that have high levels of cohesiveness. It is the ‘intergenerational self’ and the personal strength that is derived from it that are associated with increased resilience, better adjustment, and improved chances of good clinical and educational outcomes.

The researchers define three types of family narratives:

1. The ascending narrative: we came from nothing and now we've succeeded (rags to riches).

2. The descending narrative: we used to have it all and now we have nothing.

3. And, the most healthful narrative is called the oscillating family narrative: we've had ups and downs, and we've persevered, as a family.

This third narrative is the story of the Jewish people.

When we share stories - especially over holidays - year after year after year, we invite the next generation into the Jewish family story. Our stories are still unfolding.

haggadah Section: -- Exodus Story