First we were the children; then we became parents;
then we became the parents of our parents;
then our children became the parents;
and at some point our children may end up parenting us.
Given these intertwined and interdependent relationships gaining clarity about them, regardless of our age, can have a positive impact.
“When we bond well with our parents, we’re able to feel connected, comforted and secure about our place in our family and the world. On the contrary, to feel less bonded to our parents is to experience a relationship far more precarious.”
(Taken from Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. Evolution of the Self.)
Now, I would argue it is never too late to get healthy (mentally or otherwise). I don’t care whether you are 63 (my age), 83, or 33, I think a periodic examination of parental relationships can only lead to healthy outcomes. The following exercise affords just such an opportunity.
In a previous post I wrote about 6 word stories as the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. (And let’s face it, the parent-child relationship is positively pregnant with all kinds of emotional dynamics. (Sorry, I’m addicted to alliteration)
Read the following description of the 6 Word Story exercise.
“Six-word stories are the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. The constraints of choosing only six words feels strangely freeing. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect and precise story. The key to the six-word story is finding the best 6 words to communicate your point.”
As the tale goes, Hemingway believed the resulting story to be his finest work ever. Whether this legend is true or not, it helped inspire a whole genre of literature sometimes called Flash Fiction.
The constraints of choosing only six words is freeing and could turn us all into writers. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect story. They are a great way to capture anxiety, joy, and even pain, in a succinct way. According to an article in the Huffington Post,
“These abridged yarns do not fall into one genre, or even one tone, their only similarities being their strict adherence to the mandatory word limit. Some anecdotes are funny, some are introspective and others are down right heartbreaking.”
Six Word Story Prompts
These story prompts are parent and childhood focused, and are intended to elicit emotions, which can be written about and/or discussed.
- A funny story about one of your parents
- A story about your earliest childhood memory
- A story about something that made you anxious
- A story about something that made you mad
- A story about when a parent disappointed you
- A story about something that gives you hope
- A story about your relationship with your Mom
- A story about your relationship with your Dad
- A story about your relationship with a sibling
I actually devised this project for my own adult children. Parental issues are often the elephant in the middle of a relationship, ever present but hardly discussed. I’m quite certain my former husband and I have contributed our own mishegas (Yiddish for craziness) what with our addictions to expectations.
Even though both my parents have been long deceased I played with these prompts (and remember “play” is the operative word here. There are no rules. This is an exercise by and for you — to be shared or not). Thunderstruck was my reaction to the words coming out of my heart and on to my keyboard.
I doubt if there will be noticeable shift in my personality but a little clarity is, let’s say it — priceless.
See more examples of 6 word stories here.
Liz Kitchens is a writer and blogger. Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, reaches out to Lady Boomers, women of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz also blogs for Growing Bolder and Vibrant Nation, two sites devoted to aging issues. Liz conducts workshops on the health benefits of creativity and is an ambassador for the Creative Caregiving Initiative sponsored by the NCCA, The National Center for Creative Aging. Liz founded the Jeremiah Project, an after school and summer creative arts program designed to foster self esteem and encourage creative thinking among at risk middle school aged students.