TALKING WITH CHILDREN ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD
It was a classic joy of the family circle: parents and grandparents sharing “when I was a child” stories. Family circles may be harder to come by in the age of individual screens, but you can still discover the pleasure of family storytelling—and use your memories to improve family relationships.
Get Everyone On Board in Advance
A few tips for “gathering round the hearth” (or around the family room or dinner table) to share your childhood memories:
- Before trying a formally scheduled gathering, practice in casual settings: chatting about “my favorite part of today” in the car, sharing “that reminds me of” anecdotes at bedtime.
- Don’t spring a “no screens, all conversation” evening as something you’ve planned behind everybody else’s back. Get everyone’s advance input on preferred timing, ideas, and concerns.
- If anyone is stubborn with “I’ll be bored to death” whining, don’t argue or resort to “you’ll like it because I said so” dictates: sweeten the pot by promising to pass around his favorite snack or include another treat of his choosing. If he still resists, ask him to give it a chance for just fifteen minutes (or until the snack is finished), after which he has permission to slip out whenever he wishes.
- Leave the ending hour open. If the fun lasts longer than expected, great! If everyone’s ready to leave after twenty minutes, that’s fine too: never force people to sit another half hour just because you wanted the program to fill another half hour.
The following “talking with children about your childhood” tips work equally well in organized family evenings and casual conversations.
Avoid Preaching Or Negative Comparisons
“When I was a child” reminiscences are not to be confused with “when I was your age” lectures. Hearing about the old days is fun; hearing that one’s whole generation is a disgrace is not. Too much of that—even disguised as family storytelling—will only leave your kids unwilling to listen to you at all.
Share What You Learned
In the same category as “avoid unfavorably comparing this generation to yours” is “avoid pretending you were the perfect child.” Admit it: you did your share of crazy things a few decades back. Go ahead and turn those escapades into a good laugh for your kids: they won’t copy your mistakes if you talk about things you didn’t get away with.
Let Them Teach You a Few Things
Even when the primary focus is on your own childhood, let your kids do some of the talking. You may be surprised at what the current young generation knows better than to do—and at their ideas that might work for you today.
Focus On “We’re More Alike Than Different”
Remember, the primary idea (besides having fun and building family relationships) is to bridge the generation gap. Don’t be afraid to let kids see themselves in your past self, or visualize their future selves in your present self: they likely are interested in being like you already. Be willing to also see yourself as being like them, and you’ll equip yourself to be a better mentor and guide!