Mark your calendars: National Grandparents Day is just around the corner! We’re excited, because it’s the perfect occasion to approach the senior members of your family about sharing their memories and recording their stories.
We’ve found that often, families who want to learn more about grandparents’ lives feel awkward about bringing it up. It never feels like the right time to break out a recorder and start asking personal questions. It helps to have a special holiday like Grandparents Day to explain that you want to set aside some time to focus on your family, and their own stories.
We’ve come up with eight meaningful ways to celebrate Grandparents Day – whether they live near or far away.
1. Record Memories.
No matter what technology you use, recordings of grandparents become a priceless treasure. Set up a camera or an audio recorder and ask the questions that you always wanted to know the answers to. Children can ask questions, too. What are your family’s favorite “Grandma” stories? What was it like to raise you?
It’s never been easier to record a good quality interview with very accessible technology, which might already be on your phone or computer. This video gives useful tips on how to do the interview.
A professionally produced life story, or a slice-of-life recording from Reflect & Record is also a beautiful gift to give. We like to call them personal documentaries. We offer audio, video, and multimedia options. Every project is custom, fitted to the needs and dreams of your family.
2. Create Your Own StoryCorps
Have you heard of NPR’s StoryCorps? If you have, you have probably cried while listening to it. If you haven’t, you should know how powerful talking about life and experiences with a loved one can be.
StoryCorps is an oral history project that pairs two people with a close relationship (child and parent, mentor and mentee, even neighbors) and records their conversation. Beautiful memories and surprising stories and revelations come out.
For Grandparents Day, we’re offering the opportunity to record your own StoryCorps-style conversation with a grandparent. We’ll set you up in local recording legend Joel Block’s home studio with a list of sample questions (or bring your own), and record your 40 minute conversation. Your recording will be provided on a custom CD, and ready for listening on Grandparents Day. Contact us or stay tuned for details!
3. Get Social with Family Stories
Don’t live near the grandparents? Social networking – for families – to the rescue. Proust.com is a website built for memory-sharing between families. Convince your tech-savvy grandparents to sign up, and start sending them the question prompts that Proust provides. What was your favorite toy? What have you learned from your parents? You can also create and send your own questions.
Proust categorizes your answers into “chapters” (childhood, education, love life, etc) to create a virtual book with all your stories. You can attach photographs or videos, and tag it with a location (say, your honeymoon in Europe).
You should make sure you have an offline copy of the treasury you build up, but it’s a great way to start the conversation and connect with your family’s past and present.
4. Make a Memory Book
Is social network memory sharing a bit too newfangled for your family? Do it the old fashioned way. Creating a physical, hold-it-in-your-hands memory book is easy as pie. Gather up a bunch of your grandparents’ favorite photos, spanning different periods of their lives. Ask them questions about the photos and write the stories behind them.
Pair the photos and the stories in a book scrapbook style, or you can use a bit of technology that you have in your own home. Scan the photos into your computer, and use free book making software like blurb.com to put it all together. You can make as many copies as there are family members who want them!
5. Archive Family Memorabilia
Your mother has shoe boxes full of old black and white photos and letters in her closet – full of priceless memories, you’re sure. But you don’t know the stories behind them.
It’s a tragedy when family photos end up in antique stores, and close friends and loved ones become anonymous figures in nameless places. This Grandparents Day, take the time to go through the dusty piles and learn about the people and stories behind them. You might be amazed at what you hear, and your grandparents might be surprised to remember the times past that they’ve forgotten. You never know – you might even find letters from other loved ones.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to organize those shoe boxes, while you’re at it.
6. Book a Family Photo Session
It’s popular to have a professional family photographer capture a day in your young family’s life, but you don’t often see grandparents enter the picture. Grandparents love to be included in family life, and your photos should reflect that.
Plan a fun activity and book a family photographer to shoot it – the grandparents will treasure the resulting pictures forever.
7. Use Your iPhone to Connect.
Seniors are the fastest growing population on Facebook, which means they’ll be getting on the smartphone trend, if they haven’t already. There’s an app for iPhone called Storytree that’s just for sharing photos, videos, and stories of your child with your family.
Just another photo-sharing app? Not really. It also sends email notifications to the members of your private network (i.e. grandparents), and they can respond by clicking on the provided link. No iPhone necessary, and no need to overexpose your children on Facebook!
At the same time you’re emailing your family, Storytree is also helping you build an online book that you can easily print out. So you can stop feeling guilty about never filling out that baby book the grandparents gave you.
8. Make a Handmade Card
It’s an old fashioned way to celebrate, sure, but there’s no replacement for a handmade card that says “I love you” – especially if it’s drawn in a grandchild’s hand.
You might want to pair that card with a handful of forget-me-nots – the official flower of Grandparents Day.
Helpful tip: Plan ahead for Grandparents Day. If you want to send the grandparents a custom gift like a memory book, you’ll have to start gathering material now.
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