Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking the Pain Out of Journaling, Part 3

So, how are we feeling about this whole journaling project? Have you applied any of the tips I gave you last time?  I hope so, but if not, that is just fine.  I have a fresh new list of tips for you below.  Shall we get started?
  • Create a space specifically for recording personal events. If you build it, you will come. Well, something like that. The point is, find a place where you could conceivably set up shop and then make it special. Stock it with specifically chosen journals and pens. Make sure you have appropriate lighting, space, and outlets to plug in digital recording devices. A comfortable chair is critical as well. Consider ordering one of our decorative charts to hang in that space to remind you of why you're doing this: to link your generations together through stories and experiences. Above all, make it yours. (Maybe the youth in the family will take advantage of your special place and do a little journaling too.)
  • Think outside the box. It isn't always about a dictation of events. Sometimes journaling is simply finding and recording connections in any way that works. My Zap the Grandma Gap Ancestor Activity Books are a great way to help your children or grandchildren (and yourself) record personal family details without overthinking the process. I have all sorts of activities to help make discovering and recording personal family history unique and fun. 
  • Experiment with format. Give yourself different challenges for each time you journal. Maybe you'll give yourself a "One Word Sentence" challenge where you can only describe your day One. Word. At. A. Time. Or how about an acrostic poem based off of the adjective that best describes your current mood? Write a "Mad Lib" about your day but then ask your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to fill in the blanks. (Talk about a fun family activity right there!) The point is, break out of the idea that every journal entry needs to include grammatically correct sentences. 
  • Try out a "Currently" list. This is something that I've seen on the web in blogs and other social media sites but it's something I've done for years, long before Pinterest made it cool. Simply head your page with the word CURRENTLY in all caps (just like that). Then create a list that could include any number of activities, such as "listening to" or "watching" or "eating" or "loving." You get the general idea. Go back an add a few words or a sentence that describes those verbs. It's the fastest way to bullet point a week while still actually showing your personality. Win-win all the way.
  • Just do it. Sometimes we're going to have to put off washing the cereal bowls for just a few minutes. Maybe we need to skip watching a favorite TV show. Occasionally the phone just doesn't need to be answered. Whatever it is that's eating up your spare change minutes in the day, see if you can do without it a few times a week and commit to creating a consistent habit. It will make a difference in your life. I promise! 
I hope this list has you motivated to take some time to record your life a little more consistently. And if you are great about that habit already, maybe these ideas will help you shake things up in a fun and exciting way. The real point of all of this is just to inspire you to take little steps at improving your family history habits. Someday, someone you've never met will be so thankful for the time you put into your own journaling and personal history. And if they get to know a little bit about your personality along the way, well, all the better!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taking the Pain Out of Journaling, Part 2

As promised, here is the first half of my prescription for painless journaling.  I hope you'll feel the itch to write down at least one thing about yourself or your day after reading this.  If not, come back tomorrow and we'll up the dosage.  In the meantime, take at least one of these and comment in the morning:
  • Make it fun! While we all know how invaluable those personal histories with dates, full names, locations, and intimate details are, they can be a bit of a drag to actually pull together. Be sure to play around and match your journalistic styling to your personality. 
  • Short and sweet. Sometimes bullet points are all we have time for. That's okay. Really! Something will always be better than nothing. 
  • Interview yourself. Write down a bunch of questions as if you were interviewing someone you've always wanted to meet. Set the list aside for a week or so and then come back to it. (Or, better yet, I have a list already compiled in my Zap the Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook.) Answer those questions as if someone were interviewing you. Show your personality - answer candidly with whatever humor, sass, or passion you can muster. You're descendants will thank you! 
  • Scour social media. Have you seen some of the great ideas folks are posting all over the web under the hashtag or title of "journal prompts"? It's gold, I tell you! You'll never look at journaling the same way again. 
  • Make it a work of art. Along with the above tip, really look at the different ways people make a journal prompt their own. Find a great pen and some nice paper and go crazy with calligraphy or plaster your page with pictures. Write names, dates, and places as shape outlines and then interlink them to create a geometrically pleasing design. Make a journal entry entirely out of pictures taken from magazine clippings. Really, this list could go on and on and on.
Now, do you feel inspired yet?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taking the Pain Out of Journaling, Part 1

Journaling.  The "J" Word.  It's such an important part of recording our identity and experiences for future generations but it's just so hard to actually write things down. Why is it, with all of the modern conveniences of this day and age, that we struggle to find the time to keep a consistent and accurate journal of our life's events? We usually have good intentions and tell ourselves we'll get to it as soon as we have a spare moment. And we mean it. We really do. Until suddenly, we don't.

If you want to be remembered yourself,  if you want to be one of those transitional people who passes down the family heritage and invests the next generations in all of the emotional health that family history brings, you'll be more effective at it if you keep your own journal and record things about your own life, as well as what you find out about your ancestors. 

So what can we do to help us keep our promises to ourselves to try a little harder to remember to write things down? And not just the big things, but the little things that make up our personal cosmos too. I've compiled a list of ten fun and creative journaling ideas to help motivate you to jump back on the personal documentation band wagon--or even join it, if you're new to the whole idea of journaling. I will be posting those ideas over the next couple of days, so be sure to come back for your daily dose of journaling inspiration. It really will be painless... I promise! Maybe you'll even find it a little fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Decorating Boredom Buster

Yes, you read that correctly. It is entirely possible to give your children a boredom busting activity this summer that you will actually want to decorate the walls with later on. And what I mean by that is there will be nary a piece of glitter in sight. Save that stuff for your fridge and keepsake boxes. This idea will demand a prime display spot in your entryway or sitting room.

This idea comes from Brigitte. While the article is in German, I think we can all get the idea of it just based on the pictures. Family pictures printed onto canvas, placed into embroidery hoops, and then accented with colorful embroidery stitches. Tweak this one to use family history pictures and  you could create some beautiful new masterpieces. How cool is that? As you can see, they are simple cross-stitches and because your children will not have to follow a pattern, their imaginations can run a little wild. How great would this look in your house? Or what about as gift ideas for grandparents far away? I can just see the buttons busting from pride over the fact that a grandchild embroidered something for them. The fact that it is also a lovely decoration is just an added bonus.

The next time you hear, “I’m bored,” try busting out this activity and have some fun. It’s short enough to keep your child’s attention span but interesting enough to engage him or her into learning a new skill. Perhaps it will even start your child onto a new hobby path, too. Winning all around with this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview With a Grandchild

With summertime here and family gatherings more plentiful on the horizon, I have been thinking of ways to foster family bonding before, during, and after all of the wonderful gatherings that are most certainly happening these days. I came across a pin on Pinterest that I liked but wanted to tweak a bit. This idea tends to fall under the “scrapbooking” category if left as-is, but I think there is an excellent opportunity for multi-generational bonding if we take some time to think outside of the box. Why not take this “interview,” that is intended to snapshot a particular age and stage of a child, and create a bonding moment with it? Naturally, inputting the Q&A and a few pictures into a computer and creating a cute layout is an added bonus, but the real “meat” of the experiment is to open up some communication opportunities.

I think you could turn the tables on a Grandparent interview.  Instead of the youth interviewing the ancestor, what if a grandparent interviewed them?

 What if Grandma or Grandpa—or both!—created questions to ask their grandchildren? And then what if they called their grandchildren individually, or sat with them at the next visits, and just asked the questions? It doesn’t have to be formal, although some children might appreciate an serious let-me-ask-you-everything-about-yourself type of experience. Just talk. Write down their answers if possible, or at least as soon as you possibly can later on. Take a picture of the child and then a picture you and the child together. This would make for great “selfie” practice; just ask any child over the age of 18 months, they’ll teach you the art of it. This could be a chance to create wonderful dialogue for grandparents and grandchildren that hopefully will lead to some curiosity on the part of the children. Grandparents can even lead with a few things like, “You like video games? I wish I had something like that at your age. We just kicked a can and ran.” Even the most digitally savvy child will consider asking a follow-up question to that one! The point of the activity is nothing more or less than talking, bonding, and learning new things about each other. But, since we’re all genealogists here, recording it will just be a natural reflex for us. It will also serve as a great reminder of the experience a few years down the road.

 So, what are you waiting for? Go find someone to interview!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names...They're Kind of a Big Deal

Having an identity is a critical need in the human condition. We all want to know how we fit into the general scheme of this world. Exploring our names is a great place to start on our quest for personal understanding. Maybe you have the type of family that discusses this sort of thing openly, and often. But let's say you don't. What a fantastic conversation starter you have for the next family gathering you attend. Asking about names can be a pretty simple gateway into the world of family reminiscing and bonding.

Maybe you've been feeling the friction with a tween or teen in your household. This can be a sign that your child is simply trying to figure out who they really are. More than likely, the internal clash of growing up and staying safe are throwing your child into the deep end of the pool without a life vest. As a parent, wouldn't you take any chance you could to casually slip a flotation device under your child? A casual conversation about how her name came to you could have the power to buoy her up on a day when treading water is just too hard. Maybe knowing that you found meaning and purpose behind a specific name will help him see that you really were invested in him long before he was placed in your arms. Who knows the possible effects a "This is how you got your name" conversation could have on your child, now or decades from now.

 Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "But you don't live with my family. That kind of conversation would never happen with my kids. I have no idea where to start!"  Well, I have some help for you.  First, have you told them how you picked out their first name?  Start there.  Then, beyond that, I have help for you in my book, Zap the Grandma Gap.  It has an entire section devoted to learning about given names and surnames. The suggestions contained within a few pages throw a pretty powerful punch.  There are too many resources to list here but some that I have in the book include a website resource for surname research and I also talk about discovering meanings, coats of arms, and tapping into family organizations to get the ball rolling. Can you imagine saying to a surly teen, "Do you want to see what I found online today? Our family crest! How cool is that?" Even the most grumpy kid can't help but get a little excited about a symbol devoted solely to defining their name. Am I right?

Take the time this week to have a conversation with your family members about names.  What they mean, how they came to be, and what you think about all of that.  It will be one of your most meaningful experiences this week if you do.  I can almost guarantee it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

This Way Be Treasure… Arrr!

Look at this great idea I just found the other day and pinned to my Youth and Genealogy Pinterest Board. A Family History Treasure Hunt from Homemaking With Heart. I love this! The idea is that the next time you go to spend time with an older relative, create a treasure hunt for the children to complete while they visit. You may want to call ahead and arrange this with whomever you may be visiting, just to make sure everyone agrees to having the homestead looked over. Some of the ideas she gives for searchable items are really amazing and they have the potential to create fun story-telling opportunities. She lists things above and beyond the typical family photos, such as: quilts and old clothing, letters/correspondence, family bibles, trophies, old toys, and the list goes on. Can you imagine the fun children could have with a grandparent’s old yearbook?

 You could even take this treasure hunt one step further by introducing it at a family reunion. I once heard of a family who split everyone up into teams (every age group represented on every team). Each team was given a list and a digital camera and sent off with a time limit. The goal was to record digitally as many things as possible on the teams’ cameras. I heard this family travelled to gravesides and old homesteads local to the reunion. It was a highlight of the reunion for the family that year.

Our extended families are a treasure trove to our past. By learning more about them, we will learn more about ourselves. Creating a game for the discovery is a brilliant idea to draw children into family history without them even realizing it. All the children will know is that they’re having fun and discovering treasures from long-ago. Dressing up and speaking like pirates is optional, but the fun will be guaranteed. Give it a try and let me know what you think!