If you have adult children, chances are, at some point in time you’ve experienced difficulties staying connected beyond trivial situations, like providing cooking tips or watching the game together.
We recently launched JamBios, a collaborative place to write and save the stories of your life. We’re quickly noticing how great of an impact sharing memories can have on developing deep and meaningful relationships. Geographic location, life circumstances and reticent personalities can make it difficult to express feelings and develop deep connections, but sharing memories can help foster more meaningful conversations and experiences with our grown children.
Here are four lessons about the parent and (adult) child relationship I’ve learned since launching JamBios, and a few ideas for forming a deeper connection through reminiscing.
Use stories as a mediator
Shared storytelling allows grown children to understand the experiences that shaped our life. When you share stories of your life, your children can start to see you as an individual, with all the beauty and all the warts. They are able to appreciate you not just as a parent but as a person and eventually as a friend. Whether you write out your story or memories using a site like JamBios, or grab a pen and paper, journaling and sharing your stories with your loved ones can go a long way in connecting the pieces of the past and strengthening your ties in the future.
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Ask deep questions
Don’t assume deep conversation happens on its own. Sometimes, it takes a little prompting. Try keeping notes of questions you want to ask or meaningful topics to discuss the next time you get together with your children. A delightful afternoon can be spent asking and answering memory questions together with your grown kids. Questions can be light such as “how would you describe your childhood bedroom,” “Who was your favorite teacher” or “what was an embarrassing moment that happened at school,” or deep such as “what were you most afraid of growing up” or “were you ever bullied in school?” You might be surprised at how much each of you can relate to the other’s stories. Don’t be afraid to open up. Your kids are grown now. Be honest. You don’t have to worry about setting a bad example.
Leverage the artefacts
You likely have artefacts from your past that are fun to share and talk about, from a scrapbook you kept when you were younger to old love letters. Showing your adult children these artefacts can elicit an emotional connection. It’s a wonderful experience for grown children to visualize you as a child or teenager and to see how much a particular experience or moment in time meant to you. Using a collaborative memory-preserving space like JamBios can help you create written words about a memory, too, which preserves memories and emotions for the future.
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Memories of moments or events you both remember, even if from decades ago, can also be explored. Emotional bonds are formed when you re-live experiences together. Topics don’t really matter; any shared memories will do. Recalling a trip to Disney or the first time you went camping together as a family, or that time your child came home with a very bad (or very good) report card each make a good memory conversation starter. Shared memories from the past come alive when you revisit them each from your own perspective. Expect lots of laughter and maybe a few tears.
Telling your story
You don’t have to tell your story in chronological order, from your ancestors to the present day. It shouldn’t feel like hard work or drudgery. Instead you can regularly explore and enjoy your memories by simply writing thoughts down as they come to you. If you hear a song on the radio that reminds you of your college dorm parties or a smell that makes you think of summer camp, jot down the stories that come to mind. When you get in the habit of regularly recording your memory stories you’ll find it becomes easier and more natural. And when you’re ready, sharing these memories with your children can be the key to maintaining a deep connection.
Have you found it hard to maintain a relationship with your adult children?