Skip to content

How to parent smarter not harder.

View all articles

Thinking Parenting Blog

The importance of making memories

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of making memories. What with the end of the decade and the departure of my eldest son for university, I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with holding onto memories of my kids as little ones. And also, if I’m honest, a little fearful about how many more opportunities there will be (or won’t be) to make new family memories.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year Resolutions as I’m not convinced they lead to real change. But I do like to set my kids a bit of a challenge to mark the New Year. You might remember, a couple of years ago I asked them to write my New Year Resolutions for me with interesting results! This year, I asked them to come up with their five favourite family moments from last year.

As usual, what I thought was a bright and clever idea taught me a salutary lesson in teenage priorities. “Five?!” they said. And scratched their heads. I could see them wracking their memory banks for a single important event last year at which I was present. They could remember lots of great times, but none of them included family! In the end, the eldest came up with four rather vague memories (one of which actually happened in 2018 and the other was being dropped off at university – a double-edged sword of a family memory for sure!). The youngest cribbed two memories from his brother, made one up that I know he hated and concluded “We need to do more 🙁 .”

Aaagh! As if I hadn’t been desperately trying to get him to join in with family life for the whole year!

It’s one thing to understand, intellectually, that you are no longer the focus of you teens’ attention. And completely another thing to be absent from their memory banks entirely. And all of this after I had been waxing lyrical in The Sunday Times Magazine about the importance of using Christmas traditions to lay down family memories!

Why do memories matter? According to Meik Wiking (author of The Art of Making Memories), happy memories are essential to our mental health. They strengthen our sense of identity and purpose and bond our relationships. Happy memories are an important ingredient in present happiness. When we are young, everything is new. We are doing so many things for the first time that we form very strong memories. But as we get older, we have to work harder to turn events into memories and to benefit from their happiness-inducing qualities.

For my teenagers, the novel and exciting things in their lives right now are all connected with friends/work/uni. In other words, life outside the family. (Interestingly, they both named my birthday as one of their memorable moments due to an unplanned first-time-ever trip on the London Eye). But their wholesale erasing of me from their brains has certainly made me want to work a little harder at making memories with them (see How to plan family activities for happy memories).

You can help a memory to ‘stick’ by, firstly, a conscious decision at that moment to take it all in through your senses in as much detail as possible. And, secondly, by revisiting that memory to mark it as important (not-to-be-deleted) in your brain.

Revisiting memories as a family helps build a sense of family identity. When my kids were little, we used to do this by creating a family Yearbook each year filled with important photos or ticket stubs or momentos. I’ve now resurrected this (to combat teenage forgetfulness) as a digital photo frame with a slide show of favourite moments. Not the photos in which everyone looks good but the ones which provoke happy thoughts about what was happening in that moment.

I am hoping that, as a result, come next year my teens will find it a bit easier to remember more than one time in the whole year in which their mother was present. But maybe that’s just another case of maternal optimism over experience!

This post contains an affiliate link. That means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small fee.

family holding each other and looking at a view, making memories

Share this article:

The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

Not sure where to start?

Practical tips on how to be the parent your child needs and create happy family dynamics (but still do your job!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Photo of young girl sitting outside holding her face up to the sun streaming through the trees, to illustrate article on family mindfulness activities

12 Family Mindfulness Activities

Daily mindfulness moments are a simple way to reduce stress and anxiety and boost family happiness levels. For parents, mindfulness can help us stop juggling thoughts and step into the present...

Photo of Dalya Wittenberg work-life balance blogger and podcast host

In pursuit of work-life balance

Finding work-life balance can be incredibly challenging as a working parent. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Balance looks different for different people, and our sense of balance often...

Photo of mum working on laptop while toddler plays to illustrate article on resetting work/parenting boundaries post-pandemic by parenting expert Anita Cleare

Resetting work/parenting boundaries post-pandemic

The Covid pandemic led to one of the biggest and most sudden changes we have ever seen when it comes to working practices, most especially for people who were traditionally office-based. The biggest...

Photo of a woman's legs wearing jeans lying on grass to illustrate article urging parents to step away from the emails this summer

Parents, step away from the emails

If you have recently received an Out of Office from me, I hope it made you smile. It probably said something like ‘Gone Surfing’, or ‘Gone Camping’, or ‘Currently dragging a reluctant...