top of page
  • Jodi Lee

Help create a strong family narrative with 20 Questions

Create a strong family narrative and

Family traditions through Learning about your Parents/Grandparents and having

(weekly FAMILY Chat time)


Discover the joy of family history and strengthen families through traditions such as stories, art, dance, food, and music.


Encourage the youth to interview a grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, or other close relative to discover how a tradition was started in their family. If they don’t have a tradition, invite them to consider one they would like to start as a family. Invite each youth to share a tradition.

" (20 questions below) turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. The 20 items of the DYK scale are provided below. However, please remember that these are only a representative sample of the kinds of questions that kids should be able to answer. You can make up others. The main criterion, as mentioned above, is that the questions are about things that the children could not have learned on their own or experienced directly.

Each family will have different stories and different key moments and memories that are shared. It is not the content of what is known that is the critical factor, but the process by which these things came to be known. This process is, in our opinion, the causational factor. In order to hear family stories, people need to sit down with one another and not be distracted. Some people have to talk and some have to listen. The stories need to be told over and over and the times of sitting together need to be multiple and occur over many years.

The most convenient times traditionally have been family dinners, family trips in the car, vacations, birthday gatherings, etc. As Bruce Feiler notes, however, given the complexities of modern family life families can also sit and talk over a snack after school or before everyone goes off to work, or at any other time that they can focus on each other. These gatherings — short or long — are at the heart of the process by which the intergenerational stories can be told and learned and through which children can grow stronger and healthier.

No quick fix. No simply learning the answers to the questions. Just coming from a family in which the opportunities to learn family history and to create a family narrative are regular, multiple, predictable and inviolable." - Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush

1. Do you know how your parents met? Y N

2. Do you know where your mother grew up? Y N

3. Do you know where your father grew up? Y N

4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up? Y N

5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met? Y N

6. Do you know where your parents were married? Y N 7. Do you know what went on when you were being born? Y N

8. Do you know the source of your name? Y N

9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born? Y N

10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like? Y N

11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like? Y N

12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger? Y N 13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences? Y N

14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school? Y N

15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)? Y N

16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young? Y N

17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young? Y N

18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to? Y N

19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to? Y N

20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough? Y N

Important Note : About that last question! Fifteen percent of our sample actually answered “Yes!” This is because the stories that families tell are not always “true.” More often than not they are told in order to teach a lesson or help with a physical or emotional hurt. As such, they may be modified as needed. The accuracy of the stories is not really critical. In fact, there are often disagreements among family members about what really happened! These disagreements then become part of the family narrative. Not to worry! " - Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page