Considering how closely we link the holidays with family time, it’s remarkable how easy it is for quality family time to get overshadowed by the busyness involved in actually hosting family gatherings. For older family members who may be hard of hearing or less mobile, it can be especially hard to feel like they’re getting quality family time during the holidays.
This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to celebrate the National Day of Listening by setting aside time to sit down with older family members and listen to them share stories from their past.
The National Day of Listening was established by StoryCorps, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and sharing humanity’s stories in order to strengthen connections between people and create more compassionate communities. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps encourages families to sit down with a loved one and record a meaningful conversation.
Whether you record it or not, you should make time during the holiday season to have uninterrupted conversations with your older relatives—no distractions, no multitasking, no timer waiting to go off in the kitchen. Just you and your loved one.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, write down questions you’d like to ask your parents. Once you get the conversation going, it will start to flow organically and will move in its own direction, but having a few questions prepared can help get the conversation started.
Here are a few suggestions:
- What was your favorite birthday growing up?
- How did you and your spouse meet?
- What kinds of food were special to your family?
- What do you remember about [insert historical event]?
- What were your parents like?
- What was I like as a kid?
- What’s a favorite memory you have from my childhood?
For loved ones with memory loss, photos, videos, music, or even food can be good ways to start the conversation.
If you’re not accustomed to having personal conversations with your loved ones—and many of us aren’t!—the idea of sitting down to share memories can be intimidating. If it’s helpful, you can use StoryCorps’ DIY Interview Guide as a reference to guide your conversation.
For many families, the holidays are one of the few times each year when the whole family gathers in one place. Don’t let the chaos of hosting and celebrating get in the way of sharing meaningful moments of connection. Observe the National Day of Listening and use the holidays as an opportunity to strengthen bonds within your family and within generations. Those are the moments—more than gifts or turkey—that you will hold in your heart for years to come.