Family history is meant to be shared.
This is a big part of the mission for FamilyScrybe™. It’s what drives us, and it one that informs my own life and family historian business as well. I believe from the bottom of my heart, that forging meaningful connections through conversation and story sharing is integral to living a happy life.
Maintaining these kinds of connections, especially with elder family members, is in fact do-able, even while social distancing.
The coronavirus pandemic is serious, and it can be scary at times. Many of us cope through humor (toilet paper memes, anyone?) and many by looking inward, journaling and recording the history of this time for posterity. Journaling has actually been shown to help people gain control of emotions and improve mental health.
I suggest that everyone can benefit from having some purposeful conversations with those we love, in particular with our parents and grandparents. Pick up the phone, schedule a video chat, or talk in person from an appropriate distance if you are quarantined in the same home. Hit ‘record’ on your smart phone and let the stories flow. Recording on two devices is even better if important personal stories and memories are being shared.
As I have worked from home and helped my son with his remote schooling over these past weeks, I have struggled with a way to help—to extend my company’s mission even when I could not meet with clients in person to conduct personal history interviews. And hence The Kid Kit was born.
The Kid Kit is an all-in-one guide designed for school-aged children to empower them to interview their grandparents. It’s got everything they need: fun themed questions (some lighthearted, some deep), bonus activity ideas (think photo scavenger hunts and remote cooking sessions), as well as a page of technical tips for remote recording. Designed with bold colors and easy-to-scan sections, the kit is something your family can turn to again and again to inspire meaningful conversations between generations. Oh, and it’s free!
This resource joins a toolkit of other free downloads I have been offering for some time, and one more worth getting right now is 56 Essential Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late. While there’s no reason you can’t also use the Kid Kit to inspire your own interview (we’re all kids at heart!), this one’s tailored to you. The questions are chosen to spark memories and elicit thoughtful stories.
The key to any good personal history interview is listening. So ask follow-up questions that genuinely interest you. Let the stories take their own paths. That is usually when the magic ensues!
Editor’s Note: My brother recently outfitted our parents’ old computer for video conferencing. We have begun regularly scheduled weekly family-wide Zoom calls with my parents and all 9 of their grandchildren since their independent living complex is still on lockdown due to two cases of the virus. Our inaugural call had 100% participation with our 2 beloved grandparents, 3 parents, 9 kiddos, 4 significant others, 7 dogs, and one kitty cat named after a video game character – all in attendance!
As our country begins to re-open and we strive to find our footing and a new sense of normal, it may become easy to take one another for granted again. Talking to a dear loved one with the barrier of a window may have moved us to tears just a few weeks ago. Perhaps now we can social distance with a larger circle of our loved ones; yet let us not forget what it is that we lose when that comfort and choice is taken from us.
Talk to one another—really talk. Invite stories. And, when you can, hit ‘record’ when you do.
Don’t wait until next year or any other ‘better time.’ Trust me when I say: Now is always the right time.
Please be safe and kind during this time, and may you find some joy in the stories your family shares!