There are a whole wealth of products just waiting to be used to increase family connections! Quality time, conversations, recreational activities, family dinners, and parent-child “dates” all contribute to family connections, but there are other subtle but meaningful ways to strengthen family ties. The activities I mentioned need to be repeated– as well they should –to develop family connections, but it’s also helpful to scatter opportunities around your home and among family members that can be gone back to again and again.
A lot of research has been done on the effects of family stories on kids. Kids who know their family’s history and heritage have better coping skills, higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, greater empathy, and more resilience. Interestingly, the family stories don’t even need to be about a big event to make a difference. Stories about perseverance, overcoming hardship, learning to laugh, and working toward a goal make a big difference to children. Finding avenues, then, to tell your family’s stories, is well worth the search.
You might remember when I shared Four Creative Ideas for Sharing Family Stories last year. I suggested storybooks, playing card decks, family cookbooks, and everyday reminders like wall canvases that can be seen every day. These remain some of my favorite products for creating family connections. Items that family members can see, pick up, or play with help form connections while educating them about their family on the sly. To see those fun products again, just click the link.
Most people don’t think their own story is a very big deal. Writing your life experience, though, has tremendous potential– it can not only help you “know thyself,” it can make you more real and more approachable and accessible to other family members, especially kids. When kids know that grandma and grandpa went on dates, or that mom got a scholarship or struggled in school, or that dad had a super crazy hair style when he was 15, those kids connect. They see the adults in their lives as real people. They can recognize things they have in common with those adults, or things they can appreciate.
Some of my favorite products for this purpose are “Before I Was” storybooks. There are storybooks for dads and grandpas and grandmas in addition to this Before I Was Your Mom book. It shows kids that mom was a baby and a teenager and had hobbies and summer jobs and first dates, all before the kids knew her. It brings mom to life, so to speak.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to start writing your story. There are lots and lots of resources, including this article, “Questions to Help Write a Life Story.” I really love the experience of Grandpa Wozney there because it shows that every story is worth telling because every story is precious to someone.
Because this book is a template, you can really just follow the outline as your own guide if you like, making changes as needed. And because this is a Heritage Makers book, anything in the template can be changed, from fonts to colors and how many pictures on each page. You can even add pages if needed, and add embellishments like butterflies or flowers or buttons (included) if you want a different style.
Personal messages are a great method for creating family connections. Telling someone what you love about him/her and what qualities you enjoy or admire in him/her go a very long way, for both adults and kids. Making a simple list in a card or notebook is lovely, and so is publishing it in a little book like this one.
While the books, canvases, family games, and things that are for everyone in the family that I have mentioned so far help really create connections among family members, something uniquely personal packs an extra punch. Not only have you encouraged and lifted another person in the family but you have also clearly gone to some effort to make sure he/she knows. It’s more than just, “Great job, buddy.” It’s thoughtful and is obviously something that you intend to have great meaning for that person. And it will show.
Sometimes creating connections happens without us even noticing. Sometimes creating connections requires a little creative orchestration. These family connection-creating products can be gifted for special occasions, of course, but they can be created and shared just because your family needs it.
And what better reason can there be?