We often think about preserving the memories of family members who are older—parents, grandparents, or aunts or uncles, when we set about writing our family stories. However, children have stories too. They have strong feelings about family and events within their own environment.
Children have quite different, often surprising perspectives compared to their older extended family members. So how do you draw out these stories of family life from a child? An important place to start is to affirm that their stories have value, and that you are truly curious about what they think about various topics. This means controlling your own urge to complete their thoughts, interrupt, or otherwise ask leading questions that you think you know the answer to.
A helpful tool in affirming the value of a child’s stories is to write down in real time their answers to your questions. Alternately, you may choose to record their stories. Make sure they are aware and agree to your recording their stories. The act of documenting a child’s thoughts and feelings is a powerful way to convey the child's importance within the context of their larger family.
Sharing activities like baking traditional family recipes can provide the perfect environment for asking a child questions, and sharing some of your own stories.
Consider pursuits you know a child is interested in. Why do these activities interest them? What keeps their interest and how do they participate in any specific pursuit?
Children are involved in family gatherings. The days of being “seen not heard” are thankfully in the past. We want children to take part in these family events, but often forget to inquire into how they feel about the occasions. Do they look forward to them or not? Why?
Do they have favorite foods that are shared? Think Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer picnics, birthday celebrations, and others events specific to your family.
Here are some suggested questions for you to use to help get your memory session started when interviewing a younger family member:
What are your earliest memories?
Tell us about a favorite toy and what makes it your favorite?
What is your favorite food? How do you like it to be prepared?
What makes you sad?
What is your idea of fun?
If you had to leave your home quickly in an emergency, what is the one thing you would make sure to take with you?
What’s your favorite time of year? What do you enjoy doing in that season?
What’s your favorite piece of clothing and why?
What’s your favorite song? Can you sing it for me?
If you have siblings, what do you enjoy most doing with them?
Have you taken a trip? If so, what do you remember about it? Best thing? The hardest part of traveling?
If you could change anything, what would it be and why?
Remember…children grow up. One day they may understand that the gift you give to them is one they can pass on to others.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of numerous Easy Walks books. She has written for local, regional, and national publications over the past 25 years. www.marjorieturner.com