Story of My Life: Connecting the Generations

story grandparents

No, this is not an article about your favorite band, One Direction. Sorry to disappoint. 🙂 But keep reading, and you’ll see why the title is quite appropriate.

Who Do You Know?

How much do you know about your parents? Your grandparents? I know you probably grew up with them. But that doesn’t mean that you know the intimate details about their lives . . . especially before they were parents.

I have found that even in my closest relationships, you can learn a great deal about a person from asking them the right questions. It is so easy to take those we care about for granted. To assume we know everything there is to know about them. This has certainly been the case with me. I live about 2 ½ hours from my parents, but I visit them fairly often. Recently, I have tried to ask them more questions about their lives, their feelings, their stories, and so forth. Then I just listen. And then ask follow-up questions. Wow!

My father’s health has been slowly deteriorating for several years. Things are not looking promising. So I’ve decided to sit down and interview him in order to glean as much wisdom and as many experiences as I can. I hope this can be part of our legacy as a family. My children, my wife, my siblings, and beyond will benefit greatly from these stories. But don’t just take my word for it.

Connecting Generations Through Story

Family stories, such as those passed from previous generations, act like a chain that link together family members throughout time. It gives children a sense of who they are and how to approach life. Generational stories also have several other tremendous benefits.

When 2 psychologists from Emory University worked with children before and after the 9/11 terror attacks, they found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

The researchers concluded: “The more children knew about their families’ histories, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher self-esteem, and the more successfully they believe their families functioned.”

But we can’t just pass on the greatest hits of our ancestors; they need to be real individuals with real challenges. The bitter with the sweet. For example, “We’ve had ups and downs in our family, and here is how we overcame our trials.”

Not only do inter-generational stories help in the long-term, but they also have more immediate benefits as well!

A study from Oxford University showed that teenagers whose grandparents were activelstory generationsy involved in their lives were happier. They had fewer emotional and behavior problems and got along with their peers better.  “Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren buffer the effects of adverse life events,” the researchers said.  

Another study from the U.S. showed that grandparents have a positive influence on their grandchildren that is distinct from parent-child relationships. When grandparents stayed connected and involved with their grandkids, the children in both single parent and two-parent families “were kinder to others outside their immediate family and friends — and, in some cases, smarter.”

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

Great Granddaddy Knew

One of the primary reasons that generational stories are so impactful is that they tell about love and sacrifice. Indeed, leaving a lot of wealth to posterity may be desirable for some, but leaving a legacy of love will go much, much further. I share a portion of the lyrics from a song written by one of my best friends (who’s also an old bandmate):

Some people leave lots of money
For their children when they go
But no, not my grandfather
All we got from him was love.

Late a couple nights ago, my youngest on his tippy toes,
overheard his daddy cryin’.
I was sayin’ something to the Lord
Like “I wish I could give him more”
when my baby intervened.

He said: Daddy why are you crying?
Stop apologizing
All that I’ve ever wanted was to be loved by you.
Cause that’s what your daddy gave you
And that’s what his daddy gave him
Great granddaddy knew, that you would love me too.
Great granddaddy knew.

So What Are You Waiting For?

When and how can parents and grandparents share these stories with their children? If you aren’t currently holding annual family reunions, take the bull by the horns and get on it. It only takes one person to start a fire.

Set aside time to do interviews with family members! One author gives the following recommendations:

Well-crafted, open-ended questions can yield fruitful results when you interview family for purposes of family history. Take time to tailor the questions to the person you are interviewing.

When you are ready to conduct an interview, have the questions in front of you to make sure you are getting the information you desire. Conversations about family can go many directions. When possible, record the interview on audio or video.

The article goes on to list 150 possible questions you could ask! I highly recommend you use this reference as a guide.

Don’t wait until they’re sick or gone. You never know what the future holds. Start today with a few drips, and then over time, it can become a flood of family stories for you and your posterity.

 

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.

Are Your Children Learning or Simply Getting Grades?

family-good-things-to-come-159

This is a big year for my family as we have all four children in school. Eleanor, (age 5) in particular started Kindergarten. She was so dang excited! Several times a day for a couple of weeks she would ask, “Does school start tomorrow?”

Not too long before this, my wife and I worried a bit about how Eleanor would handle this transition; in the past, she’s been slow to warm up to new things. After several days of asking about school starting, it was clear that it was going to be harder on Mom than on Eleanor.

The night before school started, Eleanor (and her sisters) laid out their school clothes and filled their backpacks with notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies. It almost seemed like Christmas Eve!

But why all the excitement? What is there to look forward to?

Certainly being with friends and wearing new clothes played into it. But deeper than that, I could tell that Eleanor was excited to learn. Learn more about reading, writing, drawing, basic math and much more!

But how many older children share the same passion for learning? What about us parents? You don’t need a research study to tell you that there is a connection between age and excitement. The older a child is, the less excited they probably are about school. Herein lies a key difference.

Learning and school are not the same thing in the mind of many students. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s unfortunately the reality of kids and schools today. Professor of education and author, Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., believes that we are all born hungry to learn and creative, but it is educated and tested out of us. He elaborates below:

So, at the beginning of this school year, how do we keep the love of learning alive in our children and in ourselves (sometimes in spite of the school system)? There are plenty of options, but I’ll get you started with 3 principles to focus on.

1. Focus on Learning, Not Grades!

Alfie Kohn will introduce this principle below:

As Dr. Kohn discusses, getting caught up in performance can distract from actual learning. When you talk to your children about their subjects and classes, ask them about what they are learning and how it applies to life. Ask them about their efforts in the class. If your son brags about his A in math and how easy it was (like my son did), say something like: “I’m so glad you enjoy math! What did you like learning about the most?” Professor Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, counsels that parents should respond: “I’m sorry it was too easy and didn’t push you. Maybe we should try a higher level math where you can learn more.”

2. Get into Their Head.

One of my children kept telling us that there was no homework assigned in one of their classes and so we didn’t push it. When the report card finally came we saw a “C” in the class. (Here is where you are probably thinking I am going to be grade-focused….wrongo!)

So we sat down and asked some of the following questions: “Was this class really hard for you? Did you give your best effort? What did you learn?” Although we didn’t ask all these questions at once, we did learn that there had been a lot of homework not completed. Even more importantly we learned about how this child struggled with the subject and felt incompetent.

We kept the focus on learning and worked with them the next semester to incorporate better studying practices.

Sometimes we assume we know how our children learn and process different topics. While there is some truth to this, if we are not aware of what our children are learning at school, the homework they are assigned, how they feel about it and why, and the teaching style of their teachers . . . we won’t really know.

3. Have a Healthy Appetite Yourself.

Let’s say you prepare a meal for your family that you find quite disgusting, but you know it is healthy so you prepare it anyway. Now try to convince your children how good the food is while they see you choking it down. Kind of a hard sell.

The same goes for learning. If your kids never see you reading, developing a new skill, or just plain excited about new facts and ideas, then this tells us what they will learn about learning. In fact, one educational expert says that the most successful students have parents who model “a lifelong interest in learning.” So rekindle your love for learning by taking a community class, watch TED talks or documentaries, watch Do-It-Yourself (DIY) YouTube videos, take up gardening, or anything that gets you excited again!

Real learning will fuel your children’s development, and it will make you a better parent. It can increase life satisfaction and make for a better society. Stay curious. Stay hungry.

Welcome back to school!

 

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.

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