Embrace the warmth of the season with a family heart-to-heart.
Summer’s brightness and bluer skies can often help us feel more expansive and nostalgic about days past—maybe it's childhood memories of running barefoot through the grass, swinging up high 'til our feet touched the space between the sun and sky, jumping through sprinklers, or the melting of icy sweet treats. Summer also brings with it memories of the times spent with family throughout our lives, the annual traditions we may observe around this time of year, and perhaps even thoughts of what the future will bring.
On these warmer days we get together with loved ones, what better time to spark some conversations about our family’s stories and traditions? When we have that same long weekend beach trip or that special food that's brought to the table each year, it can be easy to take these times for granted until they’re jeopardized, or there’s a break in the pattern. Over the last couple of years, many of us had to face this reality of summers spent without loved ones by our side, making family time—and the meanings behind it—all the more important to reflect on and preserve.
How Should I Start A Conversation?
We know that just “starting” a conversation isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when some family members might not always eagerly volunteer information about their feelings or past in everyday life. While sparking a chat will take some initiative on your part, you may find that shared summer activities can come with the built-in perk of breaking the ice a little. Everyone’s family is different, but consider these “wheres” and “whens” to start asking questions:
On the road. If you find that long car rides up to a destination are often where many of your family conversations come alive, try digging a little deeper into family stories as you watch the green scenery roll by.
In action. Do you have a family who bonds best while “doing?” Maybe the best time to start a conversation is while you’re going through a shared ritual of preparing food for a family picnic, on a peaceful canoe trip, or while traversing a hiking trail up to see a gorgeous view.
In relaxation. On the flip side, relaxation is key to getting the conversations rolling for some of us! If this sounds like your family, you can unwind together while looking out over the water as the sun sets, or perhaps have a heart-to-heart while staring up at the starry night sky around a campfire.
In play. We’ve said it before—whenever you can, get younger family members involved! If you’re playing beach games or just sharing a meal together, invite kids to share their thoughts and ask questions (you can even bring some creative elements into it, like having everyone ask one question when they catch the ball). You may find that kids’ natural curiosity and excitement helps older family members open up more too.
Summer Starter Questions
Now that you’ve thought more about when to have these conversations, you can also mull over some starter questions! You might find that some of the below jump-off points are better suited for certain occasions—for instance, a big family reunion might be a better time to delve into a fun, banter-filled conversation about family talents and competitiveness, whereas a more intimate vacation setting could be a good time to ask a parent or grandparent about their personal reflections on their childhood.
Trust your intuition on this. Regardless of the setting, what we’ve found works best is starting out with lighter questions before getting into deeper topics... and our "dig deeper" questions are always good if there isn't an immediate answer, or just to keep the conversation going.
A few prompts to begin with might include:
Is there a family pastime, hobby, or sport that brings out our competitive spirit?
How long have we had this competitive tradition?
Inspirations: Music, Art, Cooking, Athletics, etc?
Is there one person who is particularly good at this hobby or sport?
Is there a great story around our family being competitive?
What are your favourite treats or desserts to eat?
Do you have them all the time? Or only on special holidays?
Do you have any memories of having this treat when you were a kid?
What does it taste like?
What is the recipe? Will you help me make them?
What are the sounds of our culture?
What is the history behind these sounds?
Is there a significance or a meaning to these sounds?
Is there a song that brings back special memories?
Do we have any musically inclined family members?
What songs would you put on a playlist to remind you of family, childhood, love, or our culture?
What was life like when you were a child?
What were your favorite childhood toys?
What would you commonly eat for breakfast?
What was school like for you?
Who took care of you?
Did you maintain any parts of your childhood for your children?
Remembering Conversations For The Future
If you find yourself a little overwhelmed with the idea of getting started, or could just use some more guideposts along the way, we invite you to check out Root & Seed’s free Conversation Tool. Not only will you find over 500 question prompts with carefully selected starter questions for your summer get-togethers, but the tool is divided between questions that are great for kids to ask their elders... as well as questions for adults to use to have more introspective conversations.
Perhaps the even bigger highlight for many is that you can record your conversations with loved ones, and know that they’re safely stored for you to revisit in the future again and again. Our time with family is precious, so embrace the warmth of summer and start a meaningful conversation today.
Do you have any tips or tricks of your own, or memories of a great summertime conversation you had with a loved one? Share in the comments below!