from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

A fun way to open lines of communications while visiting grandchildren, be they nearby or far away, is the audiotaped interview. Living nearby, the grandchild knows grandma and grandpa, they're part of everyday life. Far away is different, geography causes gaps. The one-on-one interview builds self-esteem and confidence in a youngster. It's an excellent learning experience, and creates a record of lasting memories for the family's archives.

An interview structures a conversation. Men are often as reticent as women are eloquent: women are much more socially oriented than men and communicate easier. However, the interview technique can be a starter to work through Grandpa's reserve. It quickly engages the participants in a dialogue and is as much fun for one as for the other.

Vague questions by adults should be avoided; they're confusing.

Let's set up an interview.

Grandma and Grandpa plan to visit Son or Daughter and the Grandchildren. The visit will include Grandpa or Grandma being interviewed by Grandchild.

In arranging the visit, Grandma or Grandpa discusses with Son or Daughter what they have in mind. A tape recorder or camcorder, in good working order, is available or will be brought along. It's fine with Son/Daughter and they agree to prepare Grandchild, including a set of preliminary questions. It's a fun experience, but don't insist having an audience that will make anyone present self-conscious or uncomfortable.

When all concerned are ready (recorder checked and set up, the date, time, place, names, occasion, and whatever else considered prefatory has been recorded in advance) Grandchild opens with the first question. In this example, Grandpa is being interviewed.

In responding, Grandpa avoids the simple 'yes' or 'no' answer even when such might suffice. Sure, Grandpa could respond with 'Yes' or 'No' to 'Grandpa, is your first name 'Tom'.' But wouldn't it be more fun if Grandpa transformed his reply into family lore with 'Yes, it is, and let me tell you how I got that name. The Sunday after I was born, my Dad hooked ol' Dobbin to the sleigh to take us all to....' and he's away into another bit of Lore Americana.

Unless agreed to in advance, questions and answers are serious. Knowing what a young grandchild likes to talk about is important and can focus the interview.

Youngsters, though, have minds of their own and might well pop an unexpected question. Using 'we' or 'us' and encouraging inputs from Grandchild keeps the interview from becoming one-sided. Grandchildren pile up their experiences and feelings for an anticipated interaction, and an interview will provide opportunities to talk about them and themselves.

Grandpa creates opportunities. For instance, in answering a question, he closes with: 'That's how it worked out for us; now, how about you? Did you ever.' and the switch is made.

The interview can go in one direction then the other for as long as both want it to. In the give-and-take Grandchild learns a lot about Grandma and Grandpa, and everyone involved in the game broadens their awareness, and renew and revitalize family traditions and values.

Expect spontaneity and deep probing by youngsters when they are the interviewers. They are interested in the origins of people and things; depending on their ages, of course, be ready for such questions as:

What are stars in the sky? What keeps them up when everything else falls? Why is the sun? The moon? Who made them? Why? Where do eggs come from? Did I come from an egg? Well, then, where did I come from? Is that where you came from? Where is a baby before it's born? Why did (Grandpa/Grandma) die? Where is (he/she) now?

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