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Could Sharing Your Memories Improve Your Child's Well-Being?

Recent study finds that sharing memories offers long-term benefits to children.

A recent study found that, when mothers were taught to share their memories with their toddlers, their children were more likely to become happier teenagers. Specifically, the teenagers of the mothers who learned the technique showed fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also were more likely to tell more coherent stories about their own lives, suggesting that they were more skilled at processing difficult events in their own lives.

This study was published in the Journal of Personality by a team of researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand. It included 115 mother-child pairs that were followed for 14 years. The researchers randomly assigned mothers to either learn a technique for sharing memories, referred to as "elaborative reminiscing," or to a control group who were not taught this technique. The mothers in the intervention group were taught this technique when their children were 1-year-olds. The researchers then followed up with these children 14 years later (when the children were 15 years old). The researchers plan to follow these children into adulthood for further studies.

Why might sharing memories have had such a long-term positive impact on children? The researchers suggested that this technique may help children learn how to discuss emotions related to past events and develop skills for processing these events.

So how can you apply this research as a parent?

  1. Talk frequently to your children about everyday events in the past. You can begin as early as age 1 and continue to do so until your child is a teenager.
  2. Discuss emotions involved in these events, including both positive and negative emotions.
  3. Focus on reciprocal conversations. Allow your child to ask questions, make comments, and add details as you share memories.

In summary, talking to your children about everyday past events can have a long-term positive impact—so start sharing some memories with your children today.


Mitchell, C., & Reese, E. Growing Memories: Coaching Mothers in Elaborative Reminiscing with Toddlers Benefits Adolescents’ Turning‐Point Narratives and Wellbeing. Journal of Personality.

More from Cara Goodwin, Ph.D.
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