Relationships between generations benefit everyone. Children get a better sense of who they are, have higher self-esteem, even better grades in school. Parents are often less stressed when there's an active, supportive grandparent in their children's life. And older people live longer, healthier lives, with less memory loss and depression, and are much happier when they're actively involved with the young.
"These relationships give you things you can't get anywhere else," says Legacy Project Chair and intergenerational educator Susan V. Bosak. "They make us feel connected – not only to each other, but to something bigger, to the flow of life, to the past and to the future."
Bosak offers these ideas to bring generations closer:
– Sharing bits of your life story over time can help grandchildren get to know you. If you don't know where or how to start, the Legacy Project website has a free downloadable Fill-in-the-
– Prompt informal family storytelling with a game of Did You Ever...?. Children and adults can share stories and compare memories from different times. For example, did you ever go on a boat, sleep in a cabin or tent, act in a play, stay in a fancy hotel?
– Grandchildren can interview grandparents – there's even a list of evocative questions on the Legacy Project website. Then, grandchildren can enter the annual Listen to a Life Contest. The Grand Prize is a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer. One 8-year-old winner from last year commented that "for five years I've lived next door to my grandfather, but never took the time to get to know him as well as I did over a weekend when I interviewed him for the contest. He taught me about life, my heritage, and himself."
– Grandparents can create a Life Statement with their most important values and experiences to share what matters with other generations.
– Grandparents should get involved in their grandchildren's education, and schools should put together events to make them feel welcome. There's a complete planning guide for a school Grandparents Day event on the Legacy Project's website, including reproducible invitations and activity sheets.
– Grandparents and grandchildren should let each other know what they think is special about the other. As a keepsake on Grandparents Day or any day, download free Grandparents Are VIPs and Greatest Grandchild fill-in certificates from the Legacy Project website.
Bosak says her interest in intergenerational connections started with her own close relationship with her grandmother, who inspired Bosak's award-winning picture book A Little Something. A heartwarming story about love and legacies across generations, the book has become a popular Grandparents Day read-aloud in families and schools, with more than half a million copies in print.
"Remember that children carry the legacy not only of what you give them, but also the void that's left by what you don't," says Bosak. "Building the grandparent connection helps you and them."
For more information, the free online activities and complete Listen to a Life Contest details, visit www.legacyproject.org.