The 20 questions you need to ask your grandparents: ‘It makes for tears of laughter and grief, a way of connectedness’

The 20 questions you need to ask your grandparents: ‘It makes for tears of laughter and grief, a way of connectedness’


Within the Nineteen Fifties, when he was strolling by way of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar within the heart of Cairo—the place the scent of the fluorescent-colored spices of turmeric and saffron swirled the air—somebody caught his eye. 

“That minute I noticed her,” my then 90-year-old grandpa informed me within the fall of 2020 at his home in Troy, Michigan. However proper when he did, he misplaced her within the sea of individuals. 

Months later, that very same woman was trying by way of the vitrines in Tahrir Sq. when my grandpa noticed her once more earlier than she hopped on a bus. 

Sure, my grandpa adopted her on that bus earlier than knocking on her door to politely ask her brother if it could be okay to introduce himself (again then, this was a very romantic gesture).  

He stored his eyes on “this woman,” as he described her in his deep Arabic accent. He was mesmerized by her. And “this woman” turned my Taita—Arabic for grandmother. 

This story has stayed with me since my grandfather’s passing later that very same yr. I’d been informed the story of how he fell in love once I was a lot youthful, however listening to it once more curled subsequent to my grandpa just some of years in the past left me with a heat sense of peace and hope that’s laborious to place into phrases. I’m grateful I get to carry his tales shut. It helps me perceive his life far earlier than I got here into it and brings colour to the historical past of his immigrating with my dad to the U.S. in 1968. 

My grandpa’s magnifying glass helped him see previous photographs of his spouse, kids, and fogeys.

Courtesy of The Mikhail Household

His tales left me eager for extra, so I may snicker at his prolonged descriptions of seemingly irrelevant particulars or admire his smile, remembering my Taita only one extra time. 

As the times go by, it might really feel like time is in opposition to you. The cellphone name to your grandfather finally ends up on the backside of the checklist. However connecting intergenerationally by way of the ability of storytelling serves us and our family members. 

It positive served me and everybody who heard my grandfather’s tales. It helped that he was all the time desperate to share.

Storytelling heals the soul 

Many individuals struggled with connection earlier than the pandemic and proceed to after. The isolation solely exacerbated the eager for real companionship, as seniors face a loneliness epidemic and younger adults wrestle to domesticate significant friendships in digital workplaces. 

Loneliness is a severe public well being situation and will increase individuals’s danger for dementia, coronary heart issues, and early loss of life. 

“One of many protecting elements in group well being and well-being is social cohesion and connectedness,” Cío Hernández, PhD, a licensed marriage and household therapist, tells Fortune. “Security and connection is significant for us as a species.”

Dr. Martin Seligman, who served as president of the American Psychological Affiliation and championed analysis on constructive psychology, based the speculation of well-being, which incorporates 5 principal pillars, together with relationships. 

“The experiences that contribute to well-being are sometimes amplified by way of {our relationships}, for instance, nice pleasure, which means, laughter, a sense of belonging, and delight in accomplishment,” in keeping with the idea’s internet web page on constructive psychology on the College of Pennsylvania. “Connections to others can provide life function and which means.”

One solution to prioritize connection is nearer to us than we understand. It may be inside our personal households. 

The place do I begin? 

Make connecting with older members of the family routine, if accessible to you. Begin by asking questions and listening intently to study extra. 

“Make asking questions of our elders and our youngsters simple by speaking early and infrequently about every thing,” Hernández says. “It makes for tears of laughter and grief, a way of connectedness, and the trail for data switch to take into the longer term.”

Should you really feel such as you’ve dropped the ball, don’t panic. You’re not alone, and it’s by no means too late. Even beginning with easy texts like “I considered you…” when one thing reminds you of them, or “sending you a hug,” Hernández says, can foster a relationship. 

“That acknowledgement…whether or not they reply or not has a long-lasting influence,” she says. 

After beginning slowly, you’ll be able to supply to attach on-line or in particular person by way of a shared exercise or sport and get to know one another within the moments of pause. 

“Make their world essential to you,” Hernández says. “Once you make their worlds essential to you, it’s quite a bit simpler so that you can begin popping in a few of the issues that you really want them to find out about your life and the issues that you just’ve lived by way of.” 

So what questions do you ask a grandparent? 

Questions kids can ask a grandparent

Mother and father will help facilitate conversations with grandparents by encouraging question-asking and even modeling asking questions. 

Kids can ask their grandparents to “inform them every thing” a couple of e book, film, story or occasion, Hernández says. 

Questions teenagers can ask a grandparent

Teenagers start to discover what they like and who they’re, they usually face struggles in terms of relationships, faculty, and the longer term, Hernández says. 

“This can be a nice time to ask grandparents what music they listened to, what have been the toughest components of being a teen once they have been younger, who supported them, and the way they obtained by way of tough instances,” she says. “Teenagers in search of a way of belonging can discover solace in listening to about their ancestors who could have handed their traits to them.”


  • What sort of music do you want? What hobbies did you take pleasure in at my age?
  • What have been probably the most difficult components of being a teen? 
  • Who supported you once you have been a teen? 
  • How did you get by way of a few of your tough instances at my age? 
  • What was faculty like for you? 
  • Who have been a few of your greatest pals rising up? 
  • What have been your grandparents and fogeys like? 
My grandpa and I traveled to Cairo, Egypt in 2008.

Courtesy of The Mikhail Household

Inquiries to ask a grandparent as a younger grownup 

Younger adults face extra advanced life decisions round careers, long-term relationships, and shifting. It could assist to know the way older kinfolk navigated the identical tough decisions and modifications. 

“Younger adults are determining what companions will probably be proper for them,” Hernández says. “This may be such a particular time to study what love was like for our grandparents.” 

Whereas not every thing must be heavy, practising vulnerability by way of asking questions and storytelling will help us navigate our journeys. 

“Individuals have survived all kinds of trauma, and though there could be some disgrace in sharing that, it’s additionally what preserves our historical past and exhibits how robust we’re in our household,” she says. 


  • How did individuals discover long-lasting friendships and relationships once you have been my age? 
  • What did love appear like for you at my age? 
  • How did you get by way of your first heartbreak? 
  • How did you acquire confidence in your faculty and profession selections? 
  • How did you handle cash and funds at my age?
  • How did you select your profession? Did you find yourself staying within the job you thought you’ll have? 
  • What was the scariest factor you ever did? 

Inquiries to ask a grandparent as a working guardian 

Working mother and father, these sandwiched between an elder relative and their very own kids, face a bunch of challenges in terms of caregiving. It may be laborious to give attention to healthful moments when sensible life selections loom. 

“Many grandparents and elder kinfolk on this section of life could grieve extra usually as talents begin to change, pals and family members begin to cross on, and life roles begin to change,” she says. “Though I hope the method of information switch to our future generations begins at youthful phases, urgency turns into extra a matter of time.”

Individuals on this stage can nonetheless ask common and sensible questions that make clear how this grandparent needs to stay out their life. 

“Working or parenting adults could need to search much more treasured alternatives to attach with their elders. Ask them about their values associated to cash, success, enterprise, legacy, and what makes them really feel happy with themselves,” she says. “Questions like finish of life views, views, and desires develop into essential each to show kids tips on how to method the subject of loss of life, however as a sensible dynamic for when the inevitable arrives.” 


  • How would you ideally stay out the remainder of your life? 
  • What do you want you knew once you have been youthful (about love, a profession, and so on)? 
  • How would you like the generations after us to recollect you? 
  • When do you are feeling most calm and alive? 
  • What have you ever discovered about success and the office? 
  • When have been you most happy with your self? 

Reaching out and never understanding how a relationship could evolve could be scary. However starting slowly, over a shared curiosity, earlier than asking deeper questions could make it simpler—and in the end, extremely rewarding. 

Backside line? “Go and bug your grandparents and kinfolk, inform them how essential they’re, not only for you, however so the longer term generations can find out about their household,” Hernández says. 

For me, my grandfather’s humorousness, dedication to household, dedication, and talent to belief his intestine will probably be handed down due to his tales—even when working on a bus once you’re lovestruck might not be the most effective recommendation. 


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