Stay Curious: Strengthening Multi-Generational Relationships – pennycake
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Stay Curious: Strengthening Multi-Generational Relationships

Stay Curious: Strengthening Multi-Generational Relationships

Stay Curious: Strengthening Multi-Generational Relationships

The world seems to spin quicker and quicker each day. We keep saying “things will slow down next week”, and we really do mean it at the time—but when next week comes, there’s always more and more to do. As the minutes race on, time spent with family, immediate and extended, becomes even more meaningful. Something about the stories we share recollecting our past seem to slow the clock. We’re lulled into a peaceful evening of storytelling, and all of a sudden, it’s 9 PM. But it didn’t even feel like any time passed at all.

Right then, you want to freeze the clock. You’re watching your son hear about what Grandpa’s life was like growing up on a cattle ranch. It even makes you wonder how time brought you all here, to suburbia, even though you’ve heard the story throughout your life. As your dad tells the story about the time he rode a horse bareback for the first time, you watch your son’s eyes light up. It’s like John Wayne is sitting right in front of him.

In the car, your son asks if he can have a pair of cowboy boots for his birthday. He “wants to be just like Grandpa”. When the day finally comes, you get to make his newest dream come true, and he lights up all over again as soon as he sees his new brown boots with red embroidery. For months after, all you hear everywhere you go together is the ‘click click click click’ of cowboy boot soles on concrete.

For you, it's a small reminder of your time spent together. For your son, it’s a new way of life. It’s literally walking in the footsteps of his own personal hero. Eventually, he’ll outgrow his boots. He might move on to soccer cleats instead—or playing the guitar, or building robots. But whatever it is, his own personal hero will be there to cheer him on.

This is just a tiny example of the benefits of multi-generational bonds. The truth is, there is always so much gain from those who came before us. Read on to discover new ways to strengthen bonds across generations.

Storytelling

Beyond giving younger generations an example to live by, storytelling can help create deep roots that bind us. Here are several ways this is done:

  • Cultural transmission

    To develop a true sense of self, it’s helpful to know where your family roots started. Storytelling helps older family members pass on their cultural identity, creating a sense of belonging for younger family members.
  • Connecting across generations

    For younger kids, it might be difficult to come up with things to talk about with older family members—and the same is true the other way around. You can only ask your granddaughter ‘So how’s school going?’ so many times. Sharing stories gives you something to relate to each other, and reference later as a conversation topic.

  • Building empathy

    The world isn’t always such a kind place, no matter how much care we show for those closest to us. Hearing about the challenges their family members overcame is helpful for any kid developing a sense of empathy and understanding.

Collecting

Collecting together allows family members to have real tangible artifacts that bond them. But there might be some hidden skill building taking place that doesn’t immediately come to mind:

  • Creating rhythms and rituals

    Let’s say a family travels to a new national park together each summer. Over time, they begin to collect maps, stickers, rocks, and other things that remind them of their journey. Creating a designated collection of these things becomes a tradition, and then anytime they see it, they’re reminded of their time spent together and all of the gorgeous scenery they took in—all because they came together and saved a map one time.

  • Fostering communication

    Whether your nephews are debating which rookie card from your collection is the coolest, or your daughters are deciding which leaf from your annual day-before-Thanksgiving hike is the most collection worthy, there’s a conversation to be had at every turn. There’s a lot of trust to be gained by simply talking through choices together.

  • Passing down heirlooms

    Usually an heirloom is already part of a collection, of sorts. Maybe it’s a tea set from your great grandmother tucked away in a far corner of the kitchen—with the rest of the breakable antiques. When the time comes, passing these along to join a new collection will keep memories, stories, and lessons alive—just like when it was passed down to you.

Gameplay

For kids, going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house might feel a teensy-bit serious. Best behavior is expected—but this doesn’t mean there needs to be a lack of fun. Here’s what you may get out of an afternoon of fun with the grandparents:

  • Leveling the playing field

    In a game, our age doesn’t divide us. We all have a chance to succeed, and we get to foster a sense of healthy competition. Kids are empowered to be taken seriously by their elders, and practice good sportsmanship.

  • Breaking down barriers

    Yes, we’re family. But that doesn’t automatically mean we’re comfortable around each other. Playing games together helps ease some tension, and add some comfort to any situation, by providing laughter, conversations, and enjoyment for everyone.

  • Communication and bonding

    The more time we spend together, the more we learn. We find out what makes each other tick, how we all strategize, and who might be more competitive than others. These are all valuable traits to know while we continuously build relationships over time.

The core lesson that comes out of learning from our elders is this: they have a lifetime of wisdom to share, and there are endless ways to learn it. It’s always worth a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house if there’s a story involved.

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