By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed.
I recently spent a day with my daughter and grandson celebrating his 8th birthday. When my daughter began talking about planning yet another birthday party, I suggested taking him somewhere that he would remember for years to come. Fortunately, we had heard about a highly successful play in New York that is geared to children, but equally enjoyable for adults. How the day played out was more than we hoped for: other family members joined us, a friend of my grandson’s came along with his mother and grandmother, a great aunt met us in the city as did a cousin. Although he wasn’t thrilled with the bus ride, my grandson loved the show and is still listening to the music. His great aunt bought him a Lego set of the New York City skyline which, once put together, he said would help him remember a very special birthday.
How are memories made? Oftentimes, they happen spontaneously. Sometimes a word or gesture can stay with us forever; a hug when we’re upset can remain in our minds for years to come; an expression of praise may never be forgotten; participation in a life cycle event may encourage memories made from a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
How are memories created when they don’t happen spontaneously? What needs to be in place so that memories last a lifetime?
Some possible things to consider are:
- What do you want the person to remember? Is it that the cookies you baked with your children came out perfectly shaped or is it the special cookie sheet you used as a child or the smell in the kitchen as the cookies were baking or the conversation you had with your child while you were mixing the dough?
- How best can that memory be remembered? Would taking a picture fix that experience forever in someone’s mind? Would writing about the experience add details that made the experience so memorable? Would simply talking about it give someone the words needed to replay the memory for others as well as themselves?
- Is the desired memory one that will stand the test of time? What may have seemed so important at one point in our lives may not even be on the radar screen years later. Is there the potential for this to be a life changing memory?
- What feelings will the memory elicit in years to come? Although we would hope that most memories make us smile or create a feeling of serenity and contentment, there can even be a silver lining in memories that might make us uncomfortable. I vividly remember when I was in sixth grade (too many years ago to even count) being excluded from a girls dance club with the reason being that I didn’t dance well enough. That upsetting feeling always encourages me to help others feel included whenever possible.
In the JCS Prevention Education program “Roots and Wings,” we talk about the importance of rituals and traditions as a major tool parents can use to help their child make healthy decisions and avoid risky behaviors. Memories created through rituals and traditions give children a sense of belonging, a sense of security in a world that is frenetic and chaotic. Whether it’s the special birthday dinner plate, the books read before bedtime each night or the note written on the lunch bag, what we remember can make a world of difference for all of us.
By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed., JCS Prevention Education
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.