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How I time travel to parent my adult son

Once a year I record a brutally honest conversation for my little boy. Here’s why that’s psychologically healthy for both of us. (Photo: NYTimes)
Twenty years from now, what will you be doing? What will you be thinking? What about your children?

Time is fickle, as is your memory. This pandemic year is the perfect time to start creating audio recordings of your thoughts and feelings for your kids, future kids or yourself to play back at a future date.اضافة اعلان

Perri Chinalai is a director at StoryCorps, which aims to preserve regular people’s stories, and has been collecting audio messages for 12 years from people who are about to die, whose memories are failing, or who just want to preserve a moment in time. She said the key to this type of storytelling is to find a balance between chronology — simply listing events — and reflecting on those events.

“It’s not just that I lived through this, or this happened, it’s: ‘This is the way it changed me. This is the way that it changed the way I view the world,’” Chinalai said.

She tells people who are planning to pass along an audio diary to their children to start with how much they love their kids and are proud of them. Saying it to a machine can also become practice.

“Once you can say it on tape, you can say it in person,” she said.

But the important thing is to say something. So many people, Chinalai said, don’t think their stories are worth telling, and years later their families would give anything to just hear them talking about the weather. A year like this one, she said, when the world seems turned upside down, is a good time to start.

Choose a time every year to create new recordings — perhaps your child’s birthday — and make it a tradition. Start with your own voice, and then try bringing your partner or even your child into it.

“You get this wonderful warmth and authenticity with the voice,” said Amelia Lin, founder of an app called Saga Album, which records and organizes audio recordings for family members. “It’s the way the stories were always meant to be told. It’s the way the stories have always been heard.”

Once you have made the recording, don’t listen to it again and don’t edit it. Save it and put it out of your mind. Be sure to convert all recordings to audio files (Lin recommends MP3s) and stow them in the cloud or on an external hard drive. Preferably both. When you record another, check in on the previous ones in case you need to change them into whatever format we’ll be using in 2040.

There aren’t any formal experiments involving children and audio time capsules, but Dr Victor G. Carrión, a psychiatrist specializing in adolescents, said that given what we know about young adults’ brains, the best time would be in the child’s early 20s. Around that time, the brain reaches maturity, gaining not just processing power but also empathy for others and a sense of self.

“It’s a period of exploration, it’s the period of figuring out who you really are,” said Carrión, who directs the Stanford Early Life Stress and Resilience Program. “You’ve been asking the ‘Who am I?’ question now for a while, but at 20 you’re starting to feel like, ‘I need to have an answer.’”

Neha Chaudhary, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said sharing a recording with a son might help him understand where he came from and how he might fit into society when he needs it most. For some young people, that means understanding their heritage or the trauma wrought on their ancestors.

Renowned psychologist Selma Fraiberg called these histories the “ghosts in the nursery” that later shape our behavior. But they don’t have to be trauma; they can also be a mom’s weird sense of humor or a dad’s way of maintaining order.

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