Before we dive into these thoughtful questions to ask grandparents, let’s look at why strengthening intergenerational connection through story matters in the first place.
It all comes down to meaningful connection. And truly, is there anything so life-affirming as witnessing precious bonds develop between grandchildren and grandparents?
Timmy’s tiny grubby hand tucked firmly in Grampy’s for a garden stroll as they admire their hard work… Grandma attempting to pass on her tap dancing moves to little Lucy, who can’t stop giggling… The accidental selfies, emoji mishaps, and general mayhem that ensues as Pops gets his first smartphone lesson from six-year-old Stephen…
But what about the kind of bonding that goes beyond the present moment?
We love witnessing the wisdom, tenderness, and laughter shared across generations in our Benton House communities. But as crucial as those connections are, it’s not always obvious how to bridge the generational gap in a way that lasts in our fast-paced and ever-changing world. That’s where setting aside intentional time for grandchildren to learn more about their grandparents comes in.
Interviewing Grandparents to Build Unbreakable Family Bonds
Let’s look at one of our favorite methods to smooth the path for grandchildren and grandparents to connect in a way that enriches them both: storrytelling. Literally, a tale as old as humanity.
We’ll look at why intergenerational connections matter and share some specific prompts to help foster them. Story sharing is a beautiful and extremely adaptable activity to explore with your children and senior loved ones together.
Intergenerational Connection Enriches Both Grandparents and Grandchildren
If you ask us, one of the best reasons to foster connection between grandchildren and their grandparents is the potential to reduce your senior loved ones’ potential for feelings of isolation. Especially because we know that loneliness is found to be at least as toxic to health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day.
But grandparents aren’t the only ones who benefit from intergenerational connection.
Spending time together allows both grandparents and grandchildren to provide emotional support to each other. Grandparents can offer wisdom, guidance, and a listening ear, while grandchildren can offer companionship, joy, and a sense of purpose.
In addition, the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can strengthen the overall family dynamic. More unity, more love.
Set the Stage for Intergenerational Story Sharing
Grandparents also play a vital role in passing down family traditions, values, and stories.
In this article, we want to share one particular method to support this intergenerational connection: setting the stage for grandchildren to interview their grandparents.
While this can of course apply to great-grandparents and great-grandchildren (or any important senior loved ones in your childrens’ lives), we’ll use the terms grandparents and grandchildren for simplicity.
Help Grandchildren Interview Grandparents
Share the below sections with grandchildren as thought-starters and inspiration to build stronger bonds with their grandparents. You’ll find specific ideas for questions as well as methods to adjust story sharing through a variety of interview methods.
Feel free to adjust your level of involvement depending on the child’s age and ability. Younger children may need you present and facilitating the whole time, while older children may prefer just the guidance of these prompts.
Questions to Ask Grandparents About Family History
Every family has a unique story, woven through time by the lives of our ancestors. To dive into this rich tapestry, grandchildren can gently prompt their grandparents to share family history they remember.
Here are some questions to guide the journey:
“Grandma/Grandpa, can you tell me about your parents and grandparents? What were their names, and what do you remember about them?”
“Do you know where our family originally came from? How did they end up in this town/country?”
“What were some of the family traditions or customs that have been passed down through generations?”
“Were there any significant historical events that affected our family? How did they impact us?”
Questions to Ask Grandparents About Childhood Memories
Spending time with grandchildren often inspires grandparents to recall the magic of childhood to begin with. By inquiring about favorite games, cherished toys, or memorable school days, grandchildren can open the portal to the wonder and innocence of the past even wider.
Here are some questions to spark these delightful recollections:
“What was your favorite childhood game to play? Can we play it together?”
“Tell me about your school days. Did you have a favorite teacher or subject?”
“What were your favorite toys or activities as a child? Did you have any special hobbies?”
“Were there any memorable family vacations or trips you went on as a child?”
Questions to Ask Grandparents About Their Life’s Journey
Grandparents are walking encyclopedias of life’s experiences. By asking about their first jobs, witnessing technological advancements, and overcoming challenges, grandchildren gain insight into the resilience and adaptability of their elders.
Here are some interview questions to delve into their life’s journey:
“What was your first job, and what did you enjoy most about it?”
“Did you face any challenges or obstacles in your life? How did you overcome them?”
“What was the most significant technological advancement you witnessed during your lifetime?”
“Tell me about your wedding day and how you met your spouse. What was your wedding like?”
Tips to Pave the Way for a Meaningful Exchange
To help your loved ones forge strong connections, talk with grandchildren about how to approach these conversations with tenderness and consideration. From displaying genuine interest to creating story banks filled with cherished stories, there are many ways to create a nurturing environment for the exchange of memories.
As grandchildren share their own experiences, a beautiful synergy emerges, bridging the gap between the young and the wise.
Gauge the Interest Level of Grandchildren
Approach the idea for this exploration with the child first with a light touch to gauge their true interest. If you sense they’re uncertain, try fueling their curiosity by sharing a few stories that you know of their grandparents, and help them follow up to learn more.
If you sense there isn’t genuine interest, consider revisiting this activity at another time when it might be a more rewarding bonding experience for everyone involved.
Respect Each Grandparent’s Pace and Desire
While sharing stories can be an invaluable experience for both parties, some of our senior loved ones may need time to open up. Others may not ever want to discuss the past for a variety of reasons.
Be patient and understanding, and always respect any boundaries grandparents set regarding what, how, and when they’re open to sharing.
Use Old Photographs as Prompts
Sometimes prepared questions can feel stiff or awkward. If this feels true for your family, consider starting this exploration by poring over old family photos together instead. Photos can make fun thought-starters to meander down memory lane in a more organic way.
For example, seeing Grammy in a photo as a child holding a kitten may inspire curiosity and sense of kinship in the grandchild while it also triggers a sweet memory their grandmother may then want to share.
Record or Write Down Grandparents’ Stories
This kind of exploration can be beautiful for both the present and the future. Spending the time exploring the past together builds present-moment connection, and recording the conversation also creates a tangible archive to enjoy in the future.
You can voice-record the conversation, set up a video camera, or simply write stories down. Whatever method you choose will help your grandchildren create a valuable family archive as well as offer your senior loved ones the comfort of knowing their legacy is being thoughtfully preserved.
Build a Story Bank to Preserve Memories
The truth is, our senior loved ones often experience drastic ups and downs even in the space of one day. Since their mental, emotional, and physical energy can’t necessarily be predicted, scheduled time for story sharing may not meet a particular day’s expectations. A story bank is one beautiful way to work around this challenge.
To build a story bank, help your child decorate a jar or box and fill it with blank slips of paper. Introduce the idea that your child would love to learn more about their grandparents, and ask your senior loved one to write even the smallest memories, pieces of advice, family recipes, beloved poems, or anything they feel inspired to share on the paper when they feel inspired, and then “deposit” into the story bank. This way, you can enjoy talking through these memories as a family when time and energy allows.
You can tailor this activity according to your senior loved one’s current abilities. For example, if arthritis makes writing painful for them, swap a voice recorder for paper — or if a caregiver spends stretches of time with your senior loved one, consider asking for their support to encourage and transcribe stories or notes as the grandparent shares.
Take Care to Avoid Sensitive Topics
As you foster this intergenerational connection, you may want to be present to guide the conversation to avoid potentially painful or distressing memories.
If you sense discomfort, gently shift the conversation to a more positive topic. Or, if you know of topics that should be avoided, prepare your child by sharing this knowledge with them ahead of time so they know to be sensitive.
Help Grandchildren and Grandparents Build Connection Through Story Sharing
Passing down stories from generation to generation is an invaluable bonding experience for everyone involved.
But it’s not always easy to know how to slow down and foster that connection in our swiftly moving modern world.
We hope this flexible method of facilitating story sharing between generations sparks beautiful conversations and life-long connections. However you choose to adjust these ideas to your unique family, each interaction is an opportunity to help build cherished relationships that will endure over time.