As we get older and start to realize that our time on Earth is finite, the desire to hear the voices and stories of those we love becomes more apparent. Especially when those people are no longer here. So, before that time comes, get comfy, sit down with loved ones and record their stories, their philosophies, and their accomplishments.

Depending on our relationship with our parents or loved ones, some questions might be uncomfortable. However, asking open-ended questions can help make it feel more like a conversation rather than an awkward interview. Setting up a video or audio recording can make it feel more natural; instead of worrying about writing down all their answers, you'll both be in the moment.

These questions are a good starting point, however, questions more specific to your situation can be added, and questions can be omitted. If there’s something you’ve been curious about, there’s no better time than the present. Learning more about what shaped our loved ones can help us be more empathetic to their beliefs and ideals, their history, and can help us better understand their journey.

Choosing a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or another relative, or older family friend is ideal. Recording parents together or separately (depending on the situation) can give different outlooks to a time that you may remember completely differently. Some questions are more light-hearted, some may evoke strong emotions, but overall these questions can bring us closer to our loved ones. Regardless, having these answers and information for posterity is invaluable.

Questions About Childhood

USSR - 1960s: An antique photo shows little boy standing in the middle of the room

Learning about people's childhoods is fascinating. Finding out about their likes and dislikes, pivotal moments in their lives, and living through big moments in history can give us a better idea about our parent's worldviews and ideals.

  • What were you like as a kid?
  • What's your earliest memory?
  • Did you ever have surgery/ a hospital stay as a kid? Why?
  • What did you like to do when you were little?
  • What was your favorite food/dessert as a child?
  • What’s your favorite memory from when you were a kid?
  • Did you have a nickname growing up?
  • Did you move around as a kid or grow up in one place?
  • Does anything stand out about your childhood that you want to share?
  • Was there a pivotal moment in your childhood?
  • Did you want to be like your parents?
  • Did you have a favorite band or music genre growing up?
  • Was there someone you looked up to/wanted to emulate?
  • What was your first car?
  • Did you have a favorite book as a kid?
  • Do you remember any big historical events as they unfolded? Follow-up questions: What was the day like? Did you feel any certain emotion?
  • Did you have a career in mind as a child or teenager?
  • Did you play any sports growing up?

Questions About Parenthood

Considering that eyewitness testimony can vary wildly, the perspectives and memories of our parents and caregivers will likely be very different than our own. Of course, there are family stories that we hear regularly, but digging a little deeper might give us more insight into our lives. This info might help us be more thoughtful about how we want to parent, in choosing our career, and in our relationships.

  • What’s your favorite memory of me as a baby?
  • Was it stressful balancing family and work life?
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything that you would have liked to hear, what would it be?
  • How did you meet (partner)?
  • What was your first impression of the other?
  • What was your wedding day like?
  • Was it a big or small ceremony?
  • Did you have a career in mind as a young adult? Did it change?
  • What made you want to go into a certain profession?
  • What was a typical weekend like for you during this time?
  • Was there any event that stands out to you?
  • Did you like going to school-related events/sporting events/piano recitals/school plays/etc.?
  • Did you have a favorite meal that we would have as a family?
  • Do you have a favorite family trip or activity that we used to do together?
  • If you could change one thing about that time what would it be?
  • If you could relive one year, what year would it be?

Questions About Older Adulthood

Active senior caucasian couple hiking in mountains with backpacks, enjoying their adventure 4k

Learning about your loved ones' current favorite movies, biggest accomplishments, and favorite hobbies could help find commonalities that you may have not known or overlooked.

  • What's the best advice you've ever received?
  • Do you have a favorite hobby?
  • What’s your all-time favorite movie?
  • What's your favorite book?
  • Do you have a bucket list?
  • Is there anything on your bucket list that we could do together?
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
  • Who do you consider your best friend?
  • Is there anything in our family medical history that we should know?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do these days?
  • Is there anything about our family tree that you've found interesting?
  • What’s your biggest accomplishment?
  • Do you have any big regrets?
  • What are you proud of?

Not able to get together in person? Sign them up for a service like Storyworth, or send them this journal that contains writing prompts.

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