How to make strong, lasting memories that stick around

The goal of Passing Down the Love is to encourage you to make lasting childhood memories with your kids and grandkids.

Memories that they will carry with them for a lifetime.

I’ve talked about ideas for activities like reading together, going places, sharing family traditions, turning moments into new family traditions, and simply spending time with family.

Make Lasting Memories

But do you know how to make lasting memories?

Those strong, positive, lasting memories of childhood that will stick around long after you’re gone?

You’ve heard the saying – I’ll paraphrase here –  “They will forget what you said and did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel”.

You want your kids and grandkids to remember you, not only the things you did together but how being together made them feel – loved and cherished, strong and courageous, empowered and able, protected and safe.

How Our Memory Works

So to get there, let me start by explaining a little about the process of making memories.

A memory is our interpretation of an experience.

There is a difference between “experiences” and the “memory of experiences”.

Have you ever played the game where the first person whispers a phrase to the next person and it’s passed down the line, only to end up totally distorted by the time it reaches the last person?

Or heard a bit of gossip that started as a little nugget of information and developed a life of its own?

Memories are a bit like that.

Two people can have the exact same experience, be in the same place, but have totally different memories of what happened.

My family loves to talk about their childhood memories.

One of us begins the story, but we are soon interrupted by another who doesn’t remember it quite the same way.

We were all there, but we each have our own “remembrance” of the experience.

Why is that?  Experiences and the memory of the experience are seldom the same.  We each see things differently, based on several variables.

Childhood Memories are affected by:

The passage of time —

The passage of time increases the likelihood that our childhood memories change or fade and become less vivid, the story morphing and sometimes finding a life of its own along the way.

However, telling the story many times over can help “make it stick”, even if it changes with time.

Example of Childhood Memories

On occasion, I pick up my grandkids from daycare.

On the way home, we pass by our neighborhood swimming pool. Each time, they talk about the times they swam in that pool.

Each time the story changes and is a little different than the first time they told it.

Their memories of that pool may not be as accurate as of the real experience, but they are more likely to remember because of the number of times they have passed it and talked about it.

Our perspective —

Our age at the time, our relationship with those involved, our judgment about its worth or importance and our role in the event all contribute to our memory.

Here’s an example.

The first time I met the soon-to-be in-laws I remember being terrified and nervous, wanting to make a good impression.

My husband was proud and excited for his family to meet me. His baby brother (who was 10 at the time), was curious and hopeful he’d be an uncle by the time he was 12. (He was 16 before he became an uncle).

My in-laws were welcoming and kind, but unsure about the prospect of losing their eldest son.

But really, that’s just my take on it.  I only truly know how I felt myself.

I am guessing at what I think they might have been thinking and feeling.

So my memory of the experience is based on my own perspective. They probably each remember it in their own way.

Emotions —

The most important facet of memory is the intensity of the emotions that were felt at the time of the experience.

Events with extreme emotion are more likely to create the strongest memories – the fear and excitement of a parachute jump, sorrow at the death of a loved one, joy the day your boyfriend proposed, the fear and joy at the birth of a first child, or pride resulting from a great accomplishment.

But simple emotions like the smile on your face when you see your grandchild, the outstretched arms and big hugs, listening intently, or expressing your pride in their actions and accomplishments can also create warm memories.  Remember, it’s the little things that count!

Helpful ways to make lasting childhood memories.

Talk —

Recall your pleasant, enjoyable experiences often.

Remind kids of the things you’ve done together. Ask them to tell you about the time they fell off of their bike.

Instead of talking about the scraped knee, encourage them to remember how they got back up and kept riding.

Talk about the time at the playground when they gave up their turn and let the smaller kid on the swing.

Help them remember their experiences in a positive way. Remind them they are determined, strong, and kind.

Make lasting childhood memories by talking about them in a positive way.

What is your favorite memory from your childhood?

Think about your own best childhood memories and Tell Me a Story ‘Bout the Good Old Days!

Share Photos —

Make a photo album of your favorite pictures of your family together.

Hang photos on the wall.  Look through the photos on your tablet or phone.

Whatever way works best for you, have access to your photos and share them with your kids and grandkids.

Share the memories from your trip to the zoo.  Show them videos of themselves as babies.

My grandson loves the video I have of him babbling at the table when he was learning to talk.

He can’t believe there was a time he didn’t know how to speak!  Cuddle on the couch, look through pictures, talk about the times you’ve spent doing things together, and how much fun you had with them.

Thank them for making your life happy.

Make lasting childhood memories by sharing photos of your special times.

Smell the Roses —

Think about smells and how they relate to your memories.

An experience or time comes to mind when a certain smell wafts your way.

My Grandma always smelled like her Avon perfume.

I smell that perfume and I think of her, even now.

Bake cookies together, the same kind every Christmas. Then when someone continues the tradition and bakes your cookies, they will remember Christmas with you.

The way your house smells, the flowers in your yard, or the garage smell that reminds your Grandson of the times he helped Grandpa work on the car.

Smell is a strong memory stimulus.

Use smells to make lasting memories.

Sounds —

As I talked about in a previous post, Music Makes Memories More Magical, music from our past can bring back strong feelings and emotions.

A certain song can trigger a memory of an event, a day, a person, or a time of life.

Making musical memories is a way to provide children with a future connection to positive feelings, all while simply enjoying today.

So sing your silly songs, dance to music in the living room, or play a lullaby on the piano as they fall asleep.

Make lasting childhood memories through musical fun.

Why Are Childhood Memories So Strong?

All of these things – talking about your experiences, seeing photos of things you’ve done, places you’ve been and people you’ve met, wonderful smells that remind you, and sounds like the music you’ve heard and songs you sing.

All of these combine together to make a lasting impression on you and can create memories that last a lifetime.

Final Thoughts —

Everyone has memories of their childhood, whether they are good memories or bad memories.

Take steps toward positive, happy memories for your children and grandchildren by talking with them about the good times they have had, sharing photos and recalling special moments, and create a positive association to events by adding music to your lives.

Simply enjoy your family time, interact, do things together.  Play in the rain, go camping or have a pillow fight.

These are the experiences that make lasting childhood memories.

Treasure the time.

Source: ~ Image: Canva Pro

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