Connecting Generations One Idea at a Time
Food is one of the best ways to connect children to their grandparents. But how can we make meals even more meaningful for our kids?
I think the answer is simple. By involving children in a meal's entire creation, they will more likely remember which dishes are associated with their grandparents. This means showing them your mother's recipe cards, paging through your father's favorite cookbooks together, and having them write down the ingredients and help shop for them. And when you get home, be sure to ask them to lend a hand slicing and dicing as well.
Tip: If you remember a few cherished recipes, consider creating a cookbook of the dishes and desserts that remind you most of your parents and give copies out as special, one-of-a-kind birthday presents to your immediate and extended family.
The Takeaway: Taste and smell are two exceptionally powerful tools to help keep the memory of our parents alive.
What's worked for you? What dishes remind you most of your parents?
As the holidays are almost here, consider asking your children to donate money to a charity that had particular significance to their grandparents.
Tip: First, think about the issues that your parents believed in. Were they involved in any particular cause or organization? Then, go online with your children and explore. You can make this experience even more memorable by volunteering your family's time for the specific charity.
The Takeaway: Kids will gain a deeper appreciation for their grandparents' interests and values.
What's worked for you? Have you exposed your children to the causes your parents believed in and supported?
One of the most memorable interviews I did for Parentless Parents was with a woman named Sandy Taradash. During my visit to her San Fransisco home, she showed me the diary her father kept while stationed in France and Germany during World War II. Sandy never kept this precious keepsake away from her children. When they were young she let them hold it, read it, and copy down its passages for homework assignments. Sandy used the diary to keep the memory of her father alive.
Tip: This Veteran's Day, if your mom or dad served in the military, why not use the holiday as an excuse to show your children his or her wartime mementoes? Pins, military papers, letters written from the battlefield-- all are wonderful conversation starters. You may also want to consider bringing your children to a museum or war memorial. Those kind of specific excursions help put our parents into a more manageable (and relatable) historical context.
The Takeaway: Children grow into more caring and resilient children if they are taught about their grandparents' accomplishments, and especially their sacrifices.
What's worked for you? Did your parents serve in the military? What have you told your children about their service?
Before you go on your next vacation, consider planning a trip that has particular family significance.
Why not arrange a "Grandma and Grandpa Tour?" Show your children the houses where your parents grew up or take them to the places they worked.
Tip: If those locations are too far away or otherwise unavailable, you can create a similar interactive experience by visiting the towns where your parents lived or showing your children the schools your mom and dad attended.
The Takeaway: Children learn by doing and seem to retain the most information when they're offered real-life experiences.
What's worked for you? Have you ever taken your children on a trip that's had particular meaning?
This year, Grandparents Day falls on Sunday, September 11. While the nation will certainly come together to pay tribute to the 3,000 men and women who died that horrific day ten years ago, many of us will also be turning our attention to others we've lost.
For the past few years, Parentless Parents, a new and growing community of parents who have lost their own mothers and fathers, have set aside Grandparents Day to honor the grandparents our children no longer have in their lives. Our children have decorated wooden frames to hold pictures of their grandparents and they've planted forget-me-not flowers. We've joined hands and formed big, open circles. Beginning with one of the adults, we've gone around the circle and one at a time said the names of our parents or grandparents out loud for everyone to hear. For example, I said, "Allison, daughter of Lynn and Sidney." My daughter, Lexi, said "Lexi, granddaughter of Lynn and Sidney."
What's worked for you? What will you do this month to honor the memory of your parents?
Do you have a bunch of random items in your closet that belonged to your parents? Perhaps a medal your dad earned? A pair of your father's cuff links? A set of your mother's keys?
Why not take them out, organize, and display them? Shadow boxes are a terrific way to bring special attention to heirlooms that might otherwise never see the light of day.
Tip: If you have young children, consider buying a shadow box that has an easy open and close front panel. Allowing kids to touch the objects inside (while under supervision, of course!) makes the display interactive and fun.
The Takeaway: Shadow boxes are a great way to showcase items that individually might seem small or insignificant, but together spark memories of our parents.
What's worked for you? What creative ways have you come up with to display your family heirlooms?
As we celebrate America's independence, let's also think about our parents and their roots. While we live in the U.S. today, where did our parents come from? Maybe it's Alabama and maybe it's Albania. Share your family's story and tell your children how they came to live where they do today.
Tip: To build a further connection between your children and their grandparents, bake a favorite family dish or sing a favorite family song that brings their heritage to life.
The Takeaway: Celebrating our own diversity and uniqueness is both a source of pride and remembrance.
What's worked for you? How do you celebrate your family heritage?
My father was an architect and wore a handsome necktie every day to work. After he passed away, I couldn't imagine throwing them away, or even donating them to charity. They reminded me so much of him. Instead, I decided to honor what they meant to me, and made a made a beautiful quilt out of them. That's the quilt, in the photo above.
Tip: To make the quilt out of my father's ties, I turned to Gazebo, an online quilt making company. All I had to do was give them a bag full of his ties, and the magicians at Gazebo did the rest! Of course, you can always make a quilt yourself, or locate a quilter near you.
The Takeaway: Any piece of old clothing can be transformed into a memory-making tool. My quilt is a conversation starter. When my kids ask about a certain swatch of fabric, I can tell them a story about my dad, and the time I remember him wearing that particular necktie. The quilt is just an extra special little reminder of my dad that I treasure, even more on Father's Day.
What's worked for you? Have you ever transformed a piece of old clothing into something really special?
While many of us are getting our kids ready for spring by giving away shorts and t-shirts that no longer fit, why not also do a little spring cleaning of your own?
Take a photo album off your book shelf (dust it off while you're at it) and simply leave it on your coffee table. It won't be long before your son or daughter walks by, grabs a seat, and begins flipping through the pages.
Tip: Find a picture of you and your parents taken when you were about the same age your children are now. Open it up to that specific page, and wait, expectantly. Getting your kids to look at photographs? Not as hard as you think!
The Takeaway: With the help of photographs it doesn't take much effort to talk about your parents and get the conversation going.
What's worked for you? What techniques have you used to prompt conversations about your parents?
Have you ever struggled with what to do with all the documents you inherited from your parents, such as birth certificates, marriage records, and letters? Placing them in picture frames around your home not only creates personal and beautiful artwork, it also brings them much deserved attention.
Tip: As Gia Russo, a design expert and co-author of At Home With Friends says, "Surround yourself with meaningful things."
The Takeaway: Framing old documents creates significant decorative pieces that can be enjoyed and talked about by your entire family.
What's worked for you? What documents have you displayed around your home?
Most scrapbooks are autobiographical. They are put together to be a mirror of one's life, friends, and family. A scrapbook assembled about another person is another thing altogether. That's called a biographical scrapbook.
Creating a biographical scrapbook about your parents is a fun activity to do with your children. It also gives them a rich, multi-layered understanding of who their grandparents were.
Tip: To create a biographical scrapbook, first gather some photographs of your parents. After you've gathered the pictures, locate some of their old letters, ticket stubs, or any other flat memorabilia you may have saved that have particular significance. Then, over the course of an afternoon or weekend, invite your children print pictures off the Internet that will help put all of those photographs and memorabilia into historical context. For example, what type of telephone did your parents use? Find a photo of it! Or, did you parents always talk about the day man landed on the moon? Why not include an image of Neil Armstrong?
The Takeaway: Children learn by doing. The lessons learned about grandparents while putting together a biographical scrapbook are more likely retained since they were involved in the scrapbook's creation.
What's worked for you? What historical events did your parents live through that might be of particular interest to your children?
As Valentine’s Day approaches, why not use this special time of year to share your family’s love stories with your children? How did your parents meet? Do you remember a particularly funny story about their wedding?
Tip: You don’t have to create an artificial time to tell these stories. Simply mention a recollection or two while your children are eating dinner or while they’re cutting and pasting their Valentine’s Day cards for school.
The Takeaway: Storytelling is easy, free, and helps children build connections with their grandparents.
What’s worked for you? What do you do to bring stories about your family to life?
Photoshop allows us to see the unimaginable. With a little digital magic, our children can see for themselves that they’ve inherited Grandma’s dimples or Grandpa’s smile.
To create a photograph of your son or daughter with your parents, find a favorite picture of your child and then locate a photograph of your parents that’s similar in size. Scan the photo of your parents if you don’t have one already on your computer. Using Photoshop, edit the images so it appears like it was taken at the same time.
Tip: The “fake” photo will look more authentic if you choose pictures that were taken at similar times -- two different weddings, for example, or two separate days at the pool.
The Takeaway: It’s a gift for children to see the physical traits they’ve inherited from their grandparents.
What’s worked for you? What have you done to show likenesses between your children and your parents?