Getting to know living parents and grandparents better is important. We could all most likely do better by asking unique questions that may offer a deeper connection and a new perspective on these treasured people in our lives.
In a time of uncertainty during a relentless pandemic, technology has offered a lifeline for those who have been unable to be near their elderly or distant family members. Whether through phone or FaceTime, most of us have been fortunate to stay connected with grandparents and other loved ones. The ever-changing merry go-’round that raising children can sometimes be can leave little room for a thoughtful conversation with extended family.
What we have learned this year is that we need to slow down the merry go ’round. When we can tune in and allow ourselves to let go of the distractions around us and invest time to just be in the moment when interacting with others, we can take away so much more from those interactions.
After losing my husband’s grandma last year, my family and I discussed her life as many do when someone passes. We relished in the memories of her dancing to Neil Diamond with a Manhattan in one hand and a huge gleeful smile on her face. We recalled how hard she worked in the kitchen at family gatherings and how we always begged her to sit down and relax and let us do the work. She lived a full life, we are certain, but we couldn’t help but think we could have done better to know more about her life.
Better connecting with your parents and grandparents might open up a whole new perspective on the people they once were and allow our children to pass on stories that will be shared for many generations.
As we venture into a new year, it is natural to look back at the past year and take note of the things we wish to do differently with a fresh start. One of the things our family will be doing is getting to know our living parents and grandparents better. Teaching our children to be aware and attentive to others is something we have felt strongly about from the start, including the sometimes overlooked older generations. The best way to connect and understand others is by asking questions and sharing experiences.
Here are some ideas of how we plan to help our children connect with grandparents and ask our own parents questions we had not previously thought of:
- Start by setting aside 10-15 minutes with your parent or grandparent, aiming for once a week or every other week. This gives both children and elders something to look forward to.
- Prepare a list of 2 or 3 questions at a time that reflects on something you or your kids would like to know more about. Have them consider that grandparents too were once children and young adults.
Did you have any nicknames when you were a kid?
What is a childhood experience that stands out to you?
What was the toughest part of school for you?
How did your parents meet?
What was your favorite TV show as a kid?
Who influenced you growing up?
What did you learn about parenting from your parents?
What are you most proud of?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Don’t forget to write down the answers your parent of grandparent gives you. These answers can be kept in a special journal or memory book. We found great journals with question prompts and lines for writing notes at http://uncommongoods.com, but you can even let your child design and create their own memory book.
- Grandparents aren’t the only people you can approach with these questions. Consider reaching out to elderly neighbors or starting a pen pal relationship with a senior in assisted living. They would love to have the connection and share their stories!
These are just a few of the countless ways we can connect when talking to our parents or grandparents, and community members. Taking the time to catch up with them and ask them things about their life gives them validation and enriches our understanding of who they are and who they once were long before they were parents or grandparents.
Who doesn’t like to walk down that nostalgic memory lane every once in a while, recalling all of our treasured life moments? Enjoy the adventure with your loved ones.