At some point in our life, many of us form a special bond with someone much younger. Perhaps as a grandparent, like I am to my 2-year-old grandson, or a beloved aunt or uncle, neighbor, or mentor. These relationships can be especially precious since likely you won’t be able to be present when this child reaches later adulthood. This perspective encourages me to bring my best self to every interaction we have.
I have been thinking about the legacy I want to pass on. When he reminisces in the decades to come, what do I want him to recall? Childhood memories are so fleeting, anything I can do to help him remember our time together is worthwhile. Some of the values I want to convey are optimism, joy, gratitude, and patience.
Ask yourself which qualities you want to leave as a legacy, then consider whether you’re truly exemplifying these qualities.
Do you have hobbies or passions you want to share such as fishing, cooking, or in my case, model trains? By creating shared experiences, they may link these memories with you. I connect my interest in trains to riding the subway to new adventures with my own grandfather.
I have been wondering how many of our shared experiences my grandson will even remember in years to come. A recent article in the NY Times shared how children’s memories work, how they gradually strengthen from ages 2 to 8, and the simple things we can do to help inspire positive memories.
When you have a positive shared experience, talk about it in detail. If you went on a hike, talk about the views, what the plants and trees, looked, felt, and smelled like, what snacks you enjoyed, and how it made you feel to share this with them. Then to transfer this memory to their long-term memory savor it together by talking about it several times over the following days and weeks. If you live far away you can use video to have a chat.
It’s so easy to take photos these days. You might want to create a scrapbook, either digital or the old-fashioned paper kind, and use it to preserve your favorite memories together. Get them involved in adding the photos they like. Then look at it together and talk about what you see. This will cement your bond now and give them the gift of nostalgic memories for the future.
Creating a positive, trusting relationship with you is a wonderful legacy. Knowing that you love and care for them will help them develop their own healthy optimism.
Your optimism challenge: If you have a relationship with a special young one, think about the values you want to share with them. Ask yourself whether you’re demonstrating these values to them in a tangible way. Have fun and make memories together and then later talk about your shared experiences. As always, I appreciate your feedback, questions or comments you share with me at healthyoptimism.com/contact