Use Relationship-Centered Storytelling to Nurture Strong Relationships with Children at a Distance by Kerry Byrne
(Repurposed with permission from The Long Distance Grandparent blog)
When my grandmother Pat was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live, she decided she was going to get her ears pierced. I was 13 at the time and my mother and I took her to the shopping center in the rural town we had recently moved back to because my mom ( a single mom to 3 kids no less) was her primary caregiver.
We shared a lot of moments in those last few months but this one stands out because my grandmother was in a wheelchair by then and she felt uncomfortable about it.
I remember her feeling this way.
But it’s also memorable because she shared some rather strong language when that gun actually pierced her 65-year-old ears!
Truth be told, our family – sometimes to a fault, relies on comic relief to cope with challenging situations.
This coping mechanism is part of me, my history, my sense of belonging – and the resulting stories are also a part of me.
The memory of taking my grandmother to have her ears pierced and how she shocked and made the person who was holding that piercing gun – and anyone in ear shot – laugh.
These stories matter.
And while our family collectively shares this story from time to time, I believe there are moments when you need to be the one capturing these moments along the way.
Why capture special moments from your perspective?
Yes, the parents might take photos of you together, but then the photos are on their phone, not yours. They might tell them stories about you together, but it will be the parent’s memory of it, not yours.
I want you to preserve your relationship with your little one at a distance.
If you are going to work this hard to nurture a strong relationship with young children in your family, I want you to capture it for them.
If you are reading this, I’m going to assume you are a grandparent/grand-aunt/uncle (or parent) who knows that nurturing strong bonds from a distance requires extra work and effort.
In my membership for long distance grandparents and webinars, I teach grandparents how to plan, partner, prepare, play and preserve for connection. These are the 5 pillars of the framework I developed based on evidence from multiple disciplines – and through my own research interviews with long distance grandparents and parents.
And while I share a lot of ways to prepare and play, preserving for connection is just as important to nurturing meaningful relationships.
There are so many ways you can preserve stories about your relationship
How to create relationship- centered storytelling?
There are two steps to create a beautiful family centered story for your little one:
Step 1: Get in the photos: One of the easiest to start with is using photos you take of your moments together to tell a story. Instead of only taking pictures of them, be sure to get in the photos with them. Whether you take a silly face selfie with them, a photo of you reading stories together or screenshots of celebrating their 21st birthday together on Zoom. Taking photos of you together is an important way to preserve your relationship.
Step 2: Use the photos in step 1 to create a postcard or a photo book. Alongside the photo, share a short story about the moment you captured.These moments, whether in-person or on a video chat – are your relationship. This is where relationship-centered storytelling comes in. Point out the colors in the photo, a smell that was present, a noise in the background and of course, tell them how you felt in that moment.
Storytelling experts tell us that using lots of sensory details helps children remember.
Put your relationship at the center of stories you preserve and share these gifts with your little ones at a distance.
I hope you will tell them lots of stories – and I’ll share more ways to do this as I learn more.
But let’s start with the stories only you can tell: The experience of those grand moments you are creating together.
Kerry Byrne holds a PhD, and although she originally started out wanting to be a child psychologist, she became a research scientist in the area of aging and care. For over 20 years, she has published, presented and collaborated on numerous projects and initiatives to improve the experience of aging. She believes in the power of intergenerational relationships within families to create a more caring and less ageist society. Kerry is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission-driven business helping grandparents build strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance.
Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.
Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try Peekabond go here.