You know that you and your daughter are the product of a long family lineage and history. Did you also know how enjoyable and useful that history can be to both of you right now? Plus, a Family Treasure Chest makes a great DIY gift.
My grandfather traveled to Europe occasionally for work, and once brought home a 35mm Zeiss camera, which became central to his passion for a particular kind of photography: taking slides of his family. I eventually inherited many boxes of these slides, scanned them, and sent them off to my sisters and cousins. Many pictures taken were before I was born (some of these people are strangers to me, even though they are apparently relatives). They also include photos of my grade school graduation, and hundreds of images of his grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, siblings and dozens of their friends and neighbors.
These photos—and the stories behind them—are a rich treasure trove for my daughters and me. They allow me to tell them about their heritage, the amazing women and men who came before them on my side of the family. They made for amusing evenings and they made great opportunities to instill the things our family has held dear for generations.
That’s the idea behind a Family Treasure Chest–a powerful way for you and your daughter or stepdaughter to explore and embrace your family history—and then share it as a gift for other family members.
When I Was a Boy
Gather together photographs, programs, school essays, and other souvenirs of you and your family from the days of your own childhood. If you don’t have them in your possession, ask your parents, siblings, or other relatives for copies.
Tell your daughters stories about your youth, leaving out any parental lectures or instruction thinly disguised as morality tales.
Encourage your daughter to ask you probing questions about what happened, who the various players were (or are), what came before, what came after, and more. These stories and characters may be vivid or old hat to you, but they are brand new to her.
Here are a few sample questions to get her started:
* What was the most important event in your life (and why) when you were 10? 15? 20?
* Who had had the most positive impact on you by the time you were 10? 15? 20?
* What is the funniest thing you ever saw or participated in yourself?
* What do you think is the most important change in the world between the time you were my age and today?
* Which of your own ancestors provided you with your greatest inspiration growing up?
Write down and/or record theses stories—and any interviews or conversations that your daughter has with you about them. Call or write relatives to ask for their memories about these incidents, or for their own memories of growing up with you in your family.
Be open to wherever these questions, conversations, and memories take you and your daughter. They can be a fantastic (and relatively safe) way for her to get to know you more deeply. Plus, the questions and conversations are bound to get more complex, interesting, and moving as she gets older. Be creative in how you preserve these memories—construct a scrapbook or build a simple website.
You and your daughter can also copy and/or scan items (including old photos and slides) into digital files, share them with other relatives, and ask them to return the favor. Such sharing keeps family history alive for any relative how wants to use it. For example, sending your cousin that photo of you two playing ball when you were 12 might spark a wonderful conversation between him and his child!
Look for other fun ways to explore and share your heritage, like these great Learning Liftoff tips. And see The Dads & Daughters® Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship for more great DIY communication ideas.
Joe Kelly is the best-selling author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter and 5 other fathering books. He is also Co-Founder of New Moon Girls.