Intergenerational Relationships are Strengthened at the Family Reunion

Positive intergenerational relationships foster family unity and joy. The age difference in relationships can affect activities at the family reunion. Fun ideas follow for strengthening and bonding families!

I agree with Woody Allen - family relationships are like sharks!

A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. - Woody Allen

Don't let the age difference in your relationships deter you from having successful intergenerational relationships!


Our lives are built upon relationships and what more important relationship is there than that of the family. Our families can bring us the greatest joy in life. 

Prince Andrew said, "I believe fundamentally that the family is the most important thing in life.

The grandparent-grandchild relationship is vitally important! Grandparents can share family traditions and teach important family values differently - and sometimes more effectively - than parents can.

Conversely, if the intergenerational relationships between grandparent and grandchild are strong, the grandchildren might find it easier to confide in their grandparents, rather than their parents.

Grandparents! Do you live far from your grandchildren? These ideas will help any long-distance grandparents stay close to their grandchildren. 

One's family is the most important thing in life. I look at it this way: One of these days I'll be over in a hospital somewhere with four walls around me. And the only people who'll be with me will be my family.

- Robert C. Byrd

Successful family relationships aren't easy and they don’t happen automatically. They take work, dedication, love and commitment. And, if you’re not proactively building a relationship, it is automatically disintegrating.

How to build healthy intergenerational relationships

To minimize the age difference in relationships between your family's oldest and youngest members, you need family bonding activities that appeal to a wide audience. 

It's been my experience that some of the best family reunion fun and ideas come from specifically targeting either the very young or the very old. Focus on activities that will help establish identity, self worth and a sense of belonging. For example - 

  • Swap childhood stories (don't forget to have someone take notes!)
  • Show photographs. Today's tech-savy children and teens often have NO idea what the world was like without computers and cell phones. What better way to tell than to actually show.
  • Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Prepare cards and notes to send to relatives that aren't in attendance.
  • Work on a project together, such as a Family Timeline

The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture. It represents a child’s initial source of unconditional love and acceptance and provides lifelong connectedness with others. The family is the first setting in which socialization takes place and where children learn to live with mutual respect for one another. A family is where a child learns to display affection, control his temper, and pick up his toys. Finally, a family is a perpetual source of encouragement, advocacy, assurance, and emotional refueling that empowers a child to venture with confidence into the greater world and to become all that he can be.
- Marianne E. Neifert, U.S. pediatrician, professor and author

Beyond the family reunion, there are many things you can do on a regular basis that will help strengthen intergenerational relationships, regardless of where you fit in the equation. For example -

  • Eat meals together. And while you're eating, talk about grandparents' activities and interests.
  • Celebrate Memorial Day. I grew up visiting the grave sites of deceased family members. But even if you can't visit their grave sites, you can at least revisit the names on your family tree.
  • Create, share and celebrate annual traditions
  • Send cards, post cards and notes in the mail. Email doesn't count!
  • Remember Grandparent's Day. In the US, Grandparent's Day falls in September, on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

As in any relationship, you have to be fully committed and do your part of the work. 

If all else fails, simply practice the golden rule - treat others as you would like to be treated – and watch your family and successful intergenerational relationships bring greater joy and satisfaction to your life.

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