Our grandparents are fountains of knowledge. When I was young, my grandfather would tell me stories about when he was a boy growing up in Sugar Valley, Georgia. And, my grandmother would let me watch her cooking her way (until I inevitably got antsy and ran outside to play).
Beyond these things, they taught me about ways of life. I learned the value of hard work. I also learned that there is nothing I can’t do if I put my mind and heart into something.
My relationship with all of my grandparents made an indelible impression on me. I’m thankful they were there when I was young to share these life lessons. And, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Statistics say that 84% of Americans believe it’s important to know about their history. And who better to tell it than grandma and grandpa?
According to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, “Research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors. Grandparents transmit to their grandchildren the values and norms of social order.”
So, what exactly do today’s grandchildren want to learn and know about from their grandparents? A survey conducted by Ancestry.com recently asked the same question. Here’s what they found.
About 72% want to hear stories about when their grandparents were young, and 62% want to hear specifically about their childhood memories. This same percentage (62%) wants to know where their family came from, as well as about their heritage. And over half of those surveyed want insight into their grandparents’ life advice.
These are the truly important elements to leaving a significant legacy – it’s not really about dollars and cents. Sure, you create an estate plan to focus on the tangibles, but so often, the intangibles matter most.
If you’re a grandparent, my advice is to talk about as much as you can now. Your family wants to hear about your life; they are keenly interested. And, if you have grandparents, why not sit down with them and start a conversation about the things you’re curious about? Both of these practices will create a bond that will last forever. And that’s what you really want from a legacy.
When grandparents offer stories and memories with family members and other loved ones, it helps these listeners to grow in their own lives. They can better develop principles, values, and traits that will help them along the road of life.
So, the next time you’re sitting around the dinner table, share a story about a meaningful experience. Offer a piece of family history. Tell about all of the lessons you learned, whether they arose from thoughtful experiences or comical ones.
If family isn’t nearby, have these talks over the phone. Don’t let distance be a deterrent for sharing how you achieved a life well-lived.
Nothing but good can come of these conversations and sharing of experiences. Your grandchildren – no matter how old – will remember these stories and nuggets of wisdom for the rest of their lives. And, they’ll probably share them with their kids and grandkids, too.