Can you recall what’s your favorite moment or experience in your childhood? Perhaps it’s a blurry memory, and you can only remember parts of it. And then when you see some items or pictures, you’ll get hit with a wave of nostalgia.
Now that you are also a parent, I’m sure that you want to give your children the best childhood memories. In fact, did you know that there’s research that showed the importance of happy memories to a person’s physical and mental health?
More than giving us a good dose of nostalgia and moments worth reminiscing, memories play a significant role in someone’s well-being. So how can we help our kids have good memories that they can take into adulthood?
Create Family Traditions
What makes our childhood memories unique among each other is our personal family traditions. It doesn’t even have to be an extravagant trip to an island every Christmas. It can be something as simple as going to your extended family and traveling for five hours in the car. For me, the best memories in my childhood aren’t composed of expensive material things. Because after some time, what your child will remember is what he/she felt at the moment.
I remember two or three months ago when my family and I visited my grandparents. All of my siblings also went there and gave our kids the tour of the house that we grew up in. And here is what I can tell you, sentimentality is a good thing. One of my favorite memories as a child is when my brother and I accidentally damaged our grandpa’s newly-built wooden deck.
Seeing that dent twenty years later and sharing stories with our kids now is something I’ll always treasure. We ended up restoring the deck and sealing it using this guide. After all, it’s always a feel-good moment keeping memories alive. Even if it’s just a cedar deck with a dent.
My point here is that you don’t need to spend a lot on making traditions that will stick to your child. Remember that they are too young to remember how fancy the place is. But instead, they are old enough to notice what they are experiencing at that moment. Yes, you might think that kids nowadays might feel corny or scoff at you when you want to create traditions, but nothing will beat spending quality time together.
Even the simple routine that you do every day can become a random memory that they’ll remember as adults. Perhaps it’s how mom always makes spaghetti every Saturday or how dad taught you to play catch. The attention and affection that you’re giving them will make the memory something worth reminiscing.
But besides family traditions, a memory that will surely stick out and last is something that happened by surprise. Your kids might remember a particular routine when they are young, but days, where they are caught by surprise is going to be much easier to remember.
Like I said earlier, these surprises don’t have to be very extravagant and expensive. It could just be a surprise where you make a specific occasion to make it much more special. For example, it can be adding a card to your child’s lunch box on every birthday. Basically, it’s anything that isn’t predictable but will stand out and surprise him/her.
Of course, you can always indulge yourself in the surprises you can make for your child. Perhaps it’s a game or shoes that he/she has pointed out in the mall before. The idea that mom and dad have remembered what they wanted, and seeing that object years from now will surely warm their hearts.
However, surprises can also be bad surprises. For example, a news about a friend or relative’s death can make a mark on your kid’s childhood. I remembered going home after school, and my mom telling me that my pet goldfish had died. It was not a pleasant memory that I also know that I’ve skipped eating dinner that night because I was just crying. But even if that is not a good memory, I also remembered my parents helping me create a funeral before flushing Sammy in the toilet.
In hindsight, I know it must have felt ridiculous for my parents at that moment. However, they didn’t invalidate my emotions. If they had chosen to handle it differently, like ridiculing me or scolding me for skipping dinner, then that day would’ve been more unpleasant. I’ll just remember that day as the day when my pet died, and I also felt angry towards my parents.
Be Present as Much as You Can
Lastly, the best childhood memories that you can give to your child is as simple as being present most of the time. Yes, traditions, routines, and surprises will stand out through the years, but a child can say that he/she has a childhood worth looking back into if he/she remembered being loved and cared for by his/her parents.
All the conversations and moments they have with us, whether they are feeling okay or uneasy, will stick in their memory through adulthood. I will always remember how my dad consoled me after I got heartbroken from a crush in elementary. I will always cherish how my mom calls us every night, even if she is in another state.
There are days where our parents are in a bad mood, but what’s important is if the instances where they listened and cared excels those moments. I know that there are times where conflicts can happen, and they are inevitable. However, be mindful of how you handle them. The arguments and heated moments are also easy to remember for children.
You might think that they are too young to understand why mom and dad are yelling at each other in the kitchen. But that might just be the day where your child starts avoiding going downstairs every night because they’ll remember the negative emotions they felt. Kids are like sponges, and the energy you emit during that day is something that they might remember years from now.
Once your children reach adulthood, the greatest memory that they can recall is when they feel validated and heard. Those conversations where you are supporting them and making them feel safe will shape a childhood worth looking back into.