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Bring the generations in family together with activities, rituals

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The winter holiday season is a time when grandparents and grandchildren may have more opportunities to spend time with one another. Intergenerational activities can do a lot to bring families closer together. The national Legacy Project is a community service initiative that offers grandparents and parents information, activities and contests to bring the generations in a family closer together. Here are some ideas for bridging the generations.

Start in the kitchen. Research shows that the kitchen, not the living room or dining room, is the most relaxed place to make pleasant memories. It's easy to smell, taste, talk and learn in the kitchen. Something as simple as baking cookies can make a happy memory.

Have your own family book club. Choose a new book every month. If you're a grandparent who lives away from your grandchildren, mail a book a month. You could even send along an audiotape of yourself reading the story.

Use the power of story. Reading aloud as a family is an activity all ages can enjoy. When you finish a story, share the memories or stories from your own life that it evokes. This helps children get to know you better. Bring the stories alive with old mementoes from your past.

Have a family scrapbook party. It's a great way to organize all those photos, recall family memories, and create a treasured keepsake. If you live far apart, photocopy old family photos, write a few lines about the pictures, and every once in a while mail to grandchildren.

Involve all ages in a collection. Start a collection of whatever is of interest --rocks, coins, or baseball cards, for instance. It will provide something for family members to talk about and enjoy together.

Give a keepsake. When parents and grandparents pass down a keepsake, write down the story behind it. Where did it come from? Why is it important?

Bestow your furniture. Assign a special piece of furniture to each child or grandchild. It's like giving twice --now and in the future -- and makes children feel important.

Remember to say "thank you." Children writing notes of appreciation to a grandparent teaches an important social skill and makes grandparents feel appreciated.

Encourage family rituals. The more complicated the world gets, the more simple things matter. Waving good-bye from the same window every morning or going to the local pizza place every Friday night may create lasting memories.

Share the "best memory." Even in a strained relationship, one of the most powerful gifts you can give is a short note describing your best memory of someone.

Interview an elder. When children interview a grandparent, they learn an important communication skill and come to understand their past. Older adults often value the chance to talk about their lives.

Hug someone you love. Research shows that the older people get, the fewer hugs we give them. But, everyone needs warm smiles and hugs.

The Legacy Project periodically sponsors writing opportunities and contests for youth to interview elders or to share their ideas. For more information on the Legacy Project, go to www.legacyproject.org.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.