From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Family Reunion Survival Guide
'Tis the season for family reunions and special gatherings. Times like these can be
wonderfully renewing or disasterous. As such, it is prudent to approach the family reunion
with a few ideas of your own in mind, in order to make the experience a rewarding and
enjoyable time for all.
If your family is like mine, people must travel from long distances to be together. It
requires a special effort but the memories will last a long time before the next occasion
arises. Getting the family together can present great challenges. Expectations tend to run
high, so disappointments can be devastating. Achieving success at a family reunion really
should be classified as an Art Form! For gatherings of this sort, I recommend the
- Make Specific Plans. When people are unaccustomed to spending great lengths of time
together, it is helpful to structure that time. Usually people are on vacation during
family reunions, so they want to participate in some form of entertainment or fun, but
they also want to be part of the group activity. It is important to achieve a balance
between "free-time" and "group time" and to inform everyone of the
basic schedule. Activities such as dinners, movies, visits to the zoo, museums, or arts
and crafts fairs are fun and appropriate for all ages.
- Take time for one-on-one conversations. Most group discussions tend to remain on a
superficial level. People tend to talk about safe subjects, rather than personal ones. To
achieve a more meaningful level of communication, it is usually necessary to be alone with
someone. These conversations allow people to communicate without their guard up, and
enable folks to have a heart-to-heart exchange. Arrange special times to meet with close
relatives outside of the "big events".
- Get to know each other over again. People change all the time. Children grow, teenagers
mature, adults become part of a couple or become single again. People change jobs,
relocate, develop new interests. These are just a few occasions which cause people to go
through major personality changes. Each time you meet, it is interesting to get to know
each other all over again. Rather than assuming that you know someone, try assuming that
you are meeting them for the first time, and find out who they are today! Don't be shy...
conduct an interview and ask follow-up questions.
- Look for other people's strengths. Everyone likes to be liked, but we often tend to be
critical of each other. If you find that family reunions sometimes degenerate into
negative gossip sessions, or that past faults tend to be remembered over and over,
discover another point of view based on people's better qualities. We are all eligible for
criticism, but none of us likes to be the object of it. Reputations are alot easier made
People often search for better ways to communicate with their relatives. It requires
special talent to come up with new and interesting dialogues. Here's a suggestion gathered
from my son's class project on our Family History. Students were told to ask the following
questions of their mother, father, and each of their grandparents:
Where was your family from originally? Were you alive before there was TV? What is the
first TV/radio show that you remember? How old were you were got your driver's license? To
Parents: What were your parents like when you were a kid? To Grandparents: What were my
parents like as kids?
These are just a sample of the conversation starters that led to some very interesting
discussions. The grandparents loved the interviews. According to the kids, the difficulty
was in getting one word answers... every question led to a story!
ęCopyright, 1990, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,