Joan Didion, a famous author from California, once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Stories are the first type of parenting support that ever existed. The stories that have been shared are a key way to create community between generations of families and children. For the well-being and development of young children, sharing stories is one of the most potent tools we have to drive changes in the lives of individual children and in entire systems. Here’s why:
- Human Connection:
Everyone wants to know that they are not alone. So many parts of early childhood can feel like magic, and sometimes parents do not know what to do. Knowing that there are other parents who have been in exactly the same shoes can reassure parents that they are not alone. Stories forge a powerful emotional connection between parents. When Eric Valladares shared his story about why he chose to vaccinate his children, he was able to speak directly to the community about their fears, their needs, and address them all with kindness. Relatable experiences that resonate deeply, fostering empathy and understanding are the beginning sparks of community and human connection.
2. Illustrating Real-Life Impact:
Stories to bring life the impact of early childhood services and experiences. Having a deep understanding of what families are going through is critical to motivating the changes we want to see. During COVID-19, every family faced unique challenges. More than anything, hearing their stories from their own lips emphasized how important it was to get real support systems in place.
3. Raising Awareness:
Lots of people may have some vague knowledge of the state of early childhood in our community, but facts and figures can only do so much to inspire leaders to take action. What makes the difference is often the true understanding of the problem. When our Deputy Director, Michelle Blakely, spoke about how to remove barriers to Black families pursuing developmental screenings, she shared it through the lens of families she knew had benefited from these services. Hearing stories from real community members is a critical way to get important problems, successes, and ideas into the hearts and minds of the public. To make change, the general public needs to know what is happening on the ground.
4. Advocacy for Policy Change:
Stories are potent catalysts for policy change. When policymakers hear compelling stories, they are more likely to be moved to take action and support policies that prioritize early childhood care. Consider First 5 San Mateo County Commission Chair, Rosanne Foust! Her own experience led her to pursue a role in public service, and that has allowed her to make the changes she is passionate about. Learn more about her journey!
5. Building a Supportive Community:
Stories foster a sense of community among advocates, parents, caregivers, and policymakers. By sharing experiences and lessons learned, individuals can connect on a deeper level, collaboratively working towards a common goal of providing the best possible care for young children.
Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for early childhood care advocacy, amplifying voices and shedding light on critical issues. This is an old practice. San Mateo County is located on the ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone and Muwekma Ohlone peoples. Indigenous communities have lived in and moved through this place over hundreds of generations, telling stories to this day keep Ohlone culture and community strong.
Sharing stories creates a ripple effect that can influence policy, shape perceptions, and ultimately improve the lives of young children. That is why we do it, every day, and that is why we want to hear from you, the adults that support children during their first 5 years. You are the reason First 5 San Mateo County exists, and you are the fabric of our efforts. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.