to the next generation
|Piñatas are popular for kids at reunions.
Think about the importance of kids at reunions. Kids are your
future and the future of your reunions. If kids love reunions
now, you may be able to expect them to continue loving reunions.
Many people wonder how reunions can be sustained by the next generation.
Making sure your next generation enjoy reunions now, that they
see value in regularly meeting with family and always have a joyful
time, will ensure your reunions continuation in perpetuity.
the people who, if theyre not having a good time, can spoil
it for everyone. But thats just the immediate consequence
of not regarding kids seriously or thinking that just being at
the reunion is enough to keep them happy. No way, Jose! Great
and serious thought must go into making sure kids will have a
good time and not whine that theyre bored and ask "when
can we go home?"
games, activities and entertainment for kids is essential. We
are a naturally child focused society and yet some reunions actually
get under way without any thought of how the kids will be entertained.
A pool at the hotel? An hour or two; tops. Playing with cousins
takes a while to warm up, if they rarely see one another.
leave what kids do at your reunion to chance. Never assume theyll
entertain themselves because theyll surely decide to watch
television, sleep or do nothing. There is no place on earth where
you cannot find or cause to be found, many things that will enchant
kids. It may sometimes take some looking, asking kids what they
want, and coming up with a balance and consensus that will work
for the ages and interests of your kids.
just spent a good part of the summer involved in a media tour
to talk about reunion actitivies: particularly for getting kids
involved in their reunions through a fascination with family history.
Everyone at a reunion, after all, have family history in common.
Genealogy has become a subject of interest to all ages; for adults
as a hobby and often for children as projects in school. Family
trees made from research accumulated on genealogy.com and assembled
using Family Tree Maker can fascinate kids of all ages. Family
trees are the graphic representation of how everyone at the reunion
is related. When you demonstrate family tree details for the youngest
family members it helps make sense of this large crowd of people
they find themselves in. Better yet are trees made with pictures
of relatives and ancestors to put real personality into the branches
and leaves. Not only do kids (and others) confirm what they already
know about their relatives, many people learn things that surprise
and amaze. Who is and is not related and how.
many other genealogy related and history activities that can be
incorporated throughout your reunion. Storytelling, for example,
can serve to encourage passage of family oral history. Stories
can range from a grand sweep of family history and legend to any
form of telling tales about individual lives. Stories that will
most intrigue children are the ones they can relate to. For example,
parents and grandparents telling about their childhoods at the
same age as the children theyre telling the stories to.
Games they played; the first day of school; family reunions; how
they celebrated Christmas, birthdays and presents they got; how
they got in trouble and were punished; how grandparents pr parents
met (their mates). These are often ordinary stories that many
of us forget but all you have to do is find out what kids are
concerned and thinking about and tell it from 30 or 50 or 70 years
ago. How times change.
Use the occasion of storytelling to record or videotape the "performance."
These tapes can be the foundation for a family archival collection.
Taping and recording can be assigned to kids who are responsible
enough to stick with the task. At the same time other kids can
take pictures to accompany archived audio tapes. Videotapes can
also become part of the next reunions program for the fun
and laughter but also for a demonstration of how little ones are
growing and others are changing.
albums shed much light on family history. Collections assembled
over the years also tell a story of family history. Ask everyone
to submit pictures from significant events and celebrations to
be included in books that become a visual family history. Look
for resemblances, similarities, the same cleft in the chin or
dimple in a right cheek.
Kids can participate in any aspect reunion planning and organization
starting with early tasks such as stuffing envelopes or entering
computer data. For example, kids have access to the Internet and
skills that will help elders achieve goals. Evaluate how each
family member can contribute time, talent and money. Then, ask.
more families are involving kids in planning their own program.
What will make most of them happy? What can they do to get everyone
involved? What activities are particularly interesting to them?
Kids will come up with ideas that many adults would not even fathom.
They may wish to go to the mall or roller skating or to a ball
game. Maybe they want to visit the zoo, the beach, a childrens
museum or amusement or theme park. While some of these may not
interest adults, if it can be arranged, kids should be allowed
and enabled to do the things that particularly interest them.
How about a dance after one of the family dinners? Kids can teach
adults the latest dance steps, while adults can reciprocate by
teaching many "classic" dances; disco, Charleston, waltz,
encouraging a flare for the dramatic? Using stories from your
own family history, help kids develop skits or plays that will
retell the tales at the reunion. For the Walker Family Reunion,
organizer Alexandra Walker Clark and her children wrote a skit
depicting her great grandfathers 1872 arrival by covered
wagon at the old farm, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her son, Liam,
starred as his great-great-grandfather; daughters Sarah and Amanda
dressed in calico and effectively portrayed the covered wagon
with two hula-hoops draped with a bed sheet. The kids became hooked
on family history.
be created from life abroad before emigration to celebrate ethnicity,
special triumphs and milestones of ancestors or events that involved
family members. If your kids have the talent, tell them the stories,
then have them develop their own skits. Stage re-enactments at
places that are of importance to your family. Visit homes, schools,
churches, parks where ancestors played, places where they worked.
Be prepared to explain the significance of each place; who lived,
worked or worshipped there and stories about their lives. Every
family has charming anecdotes and tales that can engage everyone.
The 250 descendants
of George Washingtons right-hand man, General "Mad
Anthony Wayne," sought the help of historians for their Iddings
Family Reunion in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the heart of the
family home that dates back nearly 300 years. A tour included
visits to Iddings family homes and Waynes birthplace. The
focus was to engage the children with Waynes colorful history.
They were fascinated. They saw one of Waynes graves at Old
St. Davids Church cemetery. According to historical records,
Waynes bones are buried in the family plot at St. Davids;
his flesh was buried in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1796. The kids
thought details of Waynes internment were definitely "cool."
organize workshops at reunions where they might discuss genealogy,
financial planning or medical history. Computer workshops can
turn the tables. Kids are fearless and know infinitely more about
computers than most adults. Kids and grandkids can be teachers.
Adults and grandparents are appreciative students. Let the kids
shine. Ask them to demonstrate reunion-related applications word processing (for correspondence, writing family history and
stories), accounts (reunion ledgers), graphics (newsletters, flyers,
invitations), e-mail (swift, easy, stampless, phoneless family
communication) and, of course, surfing the Internet to research
family history and learn lots more about reunions.
of cemeteries to reunions, and often to kids, is one of enormous
fascination. They are places where proximity to history and ancestors
is compelling. Family groups often use the reunion weekend to
clean and plant gravesites and cemetery plots or to dedicate markers
and monuments. They engage in projects that range from restoration
and repair to family research, recording data and mapping. Kids
love to do tombstone rubbings they can take to school for show
and tell. Family members should be encouraged to share tales about
the people buried in the cemetery. Most families include memorial
services in their programs which are particularly poignant at
rule of reunions is to plan something for everyone. Older family
members enjoy sitting, reminiscing and talking about old times,
but kids get bored and restless. Older members are often content
to catch up. Talking over nostalgia that only they can fathom,
reviewing the years ... their lives. Younger members have different
requirements. Programs, activities, plans must be made and all
ages must be taken into consideration. Everyone recognizes that
if kids are happy, everyone else at the reunion will be too. Effort
before a reunion to make sure the youngest reunion members are
entertained pays off in big dividends. Make your reunion interesting
and fun for the younger generation.
About the author
Edith Wagner is a reunion junkie! She is founder and editor
of Reunions magazine and Reunions Workbook.