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Joint Reminiscing: Declarative Communication

Joint reminiscing between caregiver and child has been researched quite a bit and something Dr. G has studied extensively.  This is where caregivers talk about shared joint engagements with their child to help them recall those moments and learn from the experiences. It is also a Segway into thinking about the future. 

Communication in typical development evolves from present to past to past to future (reflection and prospection).  

Here is some of the research that Dr. Gutstein has summarized for us!  

Joint Reminiscing and the Development of Mentalizing

Reese and colleagues, (Reese et al. 2002) demonstrated how parent-child joint reminiscing, along with conversations about the potential future and dialogues during important events are occurring in the present, all play a central role in the child’s ability to productively engage in self-reflective discussions by age 4 and eventually to the child’s capacity for autonomous self-reflection. 

Nelson & Fivush (2004) presented a compelling argument that Reflective Consciousness  emerges in early childhood, through the same kinds of social conversational experiences between parents and children that influence the development of emotional awareness. They believe that a primary way we learn about ourselves is through the stories we learn to tell to others about ourselves as well as the stories we hear about ourselves from others.

Rudek & Haden (2005) concluded that it is mainly in the context of parent – child reminiscing, that children learn how to describe their own and others’ mental states, both past and present.

Fivush (2006) concluded that when internal state language occurs in parent–child reminiscing, it is almost always embedded in longer narrative sequences that place internal states in context, explain the causes and consequences of internal states and describe how internal states are related to behaviours and outcomes. 

“Essentially, internal states are woven into meaningful stories of human activity.”  

Fivush, Haden & Reese (2006) reported that mothers who talk more about mental states during reminiscing, have children who come to talk more about their own past mental states later in development.  In the following passage, the authors described why joint reminiscence is especially important for children mental development.

Reminiscing may be particularly critical in helping children to understand that mental states exist over time, and continue to influence current behavior. By relating the past in elaborated and detailed ways, mothers may be helping their children construct more detailed representations of past events that may, in turn, help children link previous mental states to current internal states and behaviors. Indeed, mothers who are more elaborative during reminiscing have children with a more advanced understanding of mind.”

Reese & Cleveland (2006) concluded that, it is through the formation of narratives that link past to present, self to other, and mind to behavior, that children construct a more complex understanding of mind.

By relating to the past in elaborated and detailed ways, mother – child reminiscing helps make the links between our past and present and self and other’s important, meaningful and explicit.”

Fivush and colleagues (Fivush et al. 2011) argued that parent–child reminiscing leads children to develop specific forms of cognitive processing about self and other, which, in turn leads to children’s developing understanding of mind as psychologically real. 

Talk about the past is critical in children’s developing understanding of self, other and mind. It is through the formation of narratives that link past to present, self to other, and mind to behavior, that children construct a more complex understanding of mind.”

Your assignment: 

Regularly set aside time to engage in joint reminiscing with your child.  This could occur at bedtime, driving in the car or any other quiet time of your day when there are no other distractions.  

Talk about your thoughts and feelings as you recall prior shared experiences.  Using photos or videos can be of great support for encouraging her recall of the experience.  

You may also “story tell” about what happened.  Basically retelling the event and spotlighting the meaningful moments.   

Make connections when possible from stories your reading together to things that either of you has personally experienced.  Additionally, you can make connections between their lived experiences and yours. 

Leave room for them to contribute their own thoughts, memories and ideas, without any pressure to do so.  You want to create an authentic space for them to reciprocate without any demand to comment. 

You may demonstrate your practice with video submissions or written narratives about how its going.  

This process of joint reminiscing has proven to be so effective in helping kids to become even more reciprocal and spontaneous in their communications with their family members.  

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