Top 5 Tips for a Fun Grandparents Day LifeStory Project

Grandparents Day this year falls on September 11. As we solemnly commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th tragic events, we should celebrate life as well. And while Grandparents Day isn’t the most known or celebrated day in the U.S., make this one a special one by starting a Grandparents LifeStory Project. Here are my top 5 tips for doing a Grandparents LifeStory and making it special and fun:

Tip #1 – The Grandchild is the Interviewer – The grandchild should videotape an interview he conducts with the grandparent(s). Make it simple and fun by taking the project in small bites and continuing it throughout the year. Of course, the involvement of the grandchild will depend on his or her age, but I’ve seen really well done work by third-graders! All it takes is a tripod, a video (or audio device if video is unavailable) camera, a quiet enough place to shoot and a little bit of preparation.

Tip #2 – Preparation (KISS) – Preparation should be easy, so remember KISS (Keep it Simple, Silly). Instead of doing an entire LifeStory in one sitting like I do at LifeStories Alive, cover one subject at a time to celebrate the event of the day. Make The Grandparent LifeStory Project a year-long project that might continue with another short piece filmed on Halloween, then Thanksgiving, the Christmas or Hanukkah (you get the pattern here).

Tip #3 – Questions to Ask – Start by asking five to ten questions only. Since this is Grandparents Day, you might start with, “Today is Grandparents Day 2011. Describe how it felt to become a grandfather (or grandmother) for the first time?” Asking “feeling” questions should always generate an emotional, open-ended response. You might follow with, “Does being a grandparent change as I grow older?” Have fun with the questions, too. If you feel comfortable doing it, ask, “So honestly, Grandpa, who is your favorite grandchild?”  More unprepared questions and answers will naturally appear during the interview. Be sure to go with the flow and let them happen.

Tip #4 – Other Family Members – This tip can be a tricky one because you want to be fair with everyone and not leave someone out. The upside of including other family members is that some wonderful, touching moments can happen when others chime in and talk about these special loved ones. Just be sure the number of people included doesn’t get out of hand. KISS says you might want to keep it to just the grandparent(s). Whatever decision you make will be the right one.

Tip #5 – Editing and Archiving – What do you want the final product to look like? This is where editing comes into play. Do-it-yourself editing software is getting easier to do and less expensive by the year. If you have a Apple Mac computer, it should have iMovie as a built-in editing software already there. Try editing the video yourself. If you don’t want to tackle it, hire a professional. I might be able to help you there. Be sure to save or archive the project properly. Buy external hard drives for your project or upload it to “the cloud” (virtual storage offsite). I’d hate for a priceless project like this to be lost because you forgot to back it up.

Bonus Tip #6 – Have Fun! – Unfortunately, grandparents will not be with us forever. So have fun while they are here and have the memories you capture with them be happy ones!

Have a Happy Grandparents Day!

Your Favorite Grandparent

One of the questions I ask of our LifeStories Alive interviewees is, “Were you particularly close to one of your grandparents?” I know it’s not politically correct to have a “favorite” grandparent, but we naturally are attracted to, and are closer with, one of our grandparents. This special relationship can be life-changing.

I met with an acquaintance today named Dave who loving told me stories about his grandfather (who died about ten years ago). Dave and his grandpa would go out on his ranch near Fredericksburg, TX, just the two of them, and talk for hours on end. He felt that his grandpa was telling him personal stories about his life, including his experiences in World War II, that he had not shared with anyone else. As Dave this afternoon was telling me this, his face lit up with the greatest smile. I could feel the special bond he had with his grandpa.

I have heard of many such relationships with many of the people I talk with. I’ve always wondered, What sets up those special conversations and relationships? I feel one of the reasons is the “safe place” a grandparent feels with that one grandchild. While those people of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation are typically very humble, their stories will flow like a river when they feel that they are in a safe place to share them. Creating such a safe place is one of the skills I have learned and teach in my work at LifeStories Alive.

So if you had a favorite grandparent, remember them today and honor their memory (or present-day life) by sharing their stories with someone else, or better yet, by recording them for future generations to know. Remember, one day you, too, might be a favorite grandparent for someone special in your life.