Connecting the Generations


Thanksgiving is less than a week away. This not only means turkey and stuffing, but it also means generations of families getting together. While this is a joyous occasion for some families (fortunately, mine!), I know that some have a hard time connecting the generations.


My kids are extremely fortunate that all of their grandparents are genuinely interested in them. They could easily and happily spend hours talking and playing with any of their grandparents. They love the unique conversations and interests of each of them, and the feeling is mutual. They know that Grann will sit in their kid-sized chairs to teach them new card games, and go out of her way to make their favorite meals when we visit. How many kids are lucky enough to have a huge crab fest when they visit? Nanny will introduce them to artists, get them painting, and discuss their favorite books and Broadway musicals for hours. Papa Ken will leave snake skins on the wood pile for them to discover, dissect frogs with them that didn't survive a night in the pool, and teach them how to fix their toys and mow the lawn. PopPop will talk sports, especially baseball, and explain anything in history that they want to know. And, of course, they all will readily tell embarrassing stories of when their parents were young!

While all the grandparents are over a two hour drive away, one way we continue these connections is with what we call "Papa Ken Questions," though we have a separate list of questions for each grandparent. On my iPhone, I keep a "Notes" page for each grandparent. When something strikes us that we would want to ask or tell one of the grandparents, we write it on their page. Then, the next time we visit or call, we can ask the questions. One of our recent "Papa Ken Questions" is "Why do fingers get pruney after you go in the water?" I'm looking forward to that explanation!



My Brownie troop recently completed the My Family Story Badge. One of the goals of this badge was to get kids talking with family members to get to know their history. One of the projects we made was a Family Table Talk Jar. The girls wrote down some questions they could ask their family during the upcoming holiday meals, or actually any time. They added them to a list of questions the leaders had prepared, cut each question strip, and put all the questions in a plastic mason jar. We then tied a little poem I wrote around the top. Hopefully, it will get some rich conversations going and help them learn about their family members and family history.

A few years ago, we asked similar questions during a family visit. My kids learned that PopPop would walk home from elementary school each day to have lunch with his mother; Papa Ken had a dog that was able to sense enemy planes flying overhead when he grew up during World War II just outside London.

Here are some of the questions, if you would like to make your own Family Table Talk Jar, especially as you get together with relatives during the holidays. I hope that they lead to some priceless conversations at your home.

  • What is your favorite family tradition?

  • What is your favorite place you have visited?

  • How did you get to school?

  • What were your favorite subjects in school?

  • Who were your best friends when you were younger? Why were you friends?

  • What school activities or sports did you do?

  • What was your favorite toy as a kid?

  • What clothes did boys and girls wear when you were younger?

  • Does your family have any special objects that have been in the family for a long time?

  • Does your family have any family recipes? Who first made them?

  • Where is your family from originally? When did your relatives first come to America?

  • What pets have you ever had?

  • What did your childhood room look like?

  • When you were a kid, how did your family celebrate holidays and birthdays?