Family History Fun: 20 Questions to Ask the Grans This Holiday

grandmother and granddaughter
Photo by Cuiyan Liu / Stocksy United

Have some grandparents or great aunts and uncles in your holiday plans? Turns out visiting with their elders could be great for your children's sense of well-being. According to research from Emory University, sharing your family's history with your child can make a real (and positive) impact on your children’s sense of identity, ability to cope with stress, and overall health and happiness.

That may sound surprising. Could knowing about Grandpa’s first job or where great grandma went to high school really help your child deal with bullying or a pile of difficult homework? The answer is yes.

Children who know the story of their family—including accomplishments and struggles alike—feel the support of their “tribe” and can sense their place in the world. One way to learn the family history? Have children ask questions themselves in an interview, ideally with a mug of warm cider in their hands and fire in the fireplace.

This family project is a wonderful way to celebrate the season—and odds are you’ll learn a few things yourself.

To make the most of your interview session, you can record the questions and answers on video or record audio with your phone. Prefer lo-fi? Create a family history journal using the stories you hear. That will be a tangible memento from childhood that truly lasts a lifetime.

20. Questions to Ask Your Elders

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. What was your town like?
  3. What were some of the most important things to your family?
  4. What was your house like? Did you have your own room?
  5. What do you remember about your grandparents? What country did they come from?
  6. Who were your friends when you were little? Did you ever get into arguments with them? Did they ever tease you?
  7. What were your favorite foods when you were little?
  8. What kind of phones did you have? What major inventions can you remember?
  9. Where did you go to school? What did you like about school, and what didn’t you like?
  10. How did you celebrate holidays when you were little?
  11. What was the best gift you ever received?
  12. What were you like as a teenager and what did you do for fun?
  13. What was your favorite kind of music?
  14. What was your first job?
  15. How did you start your career and how did you decide what you wanted to do for a living?
  16. How did you meet your husband/wife and what was your wedding like?
  17. What things frightened you as a child?
  18. What important lessons have you learned in your life?
  19. If you had three wishes, what would they be?
  20. What is your very best memory?

If your older family members have passed away, share your own memories of your family and show your child photographs and family heirlooms to make those family members come alive.

It can be helpful to make a family tree or a memory book of your major family moments. Even sharing the lessons you’ve learned in your own life can make a big difference—share your experiences with bullying, sports, television, fashion…anything you can think of!

You’ll feel more connected to your own past, and help your child grow up healthy and happy. Now that’s a win/win.

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