Questions to Ask Your Parents


A few days ago, a friend lost her father to cancer and she made a heartfelt plea on her facebook page.  He was so young and it broke my heart.

If you are reading this and are blessed to still have your Daddy around, would you do something for me? Would you invite him over for dinner this week? Ask him a million questions, take a ton of pictures with you, your spouse, and the grandkids, tell your favorite family stories and jokes, and linger a bit longer in his hug.

I wish I could physically *make* people follow her advice.  I lost my father when I was young so preserving memories is important to me.  Our parents and grandparents won’t be around forever.  We know this intellectually but ignore the reality because it makes us uncomfortable.

There are many questions you should ask them before it’s too late.  And there are great books to help facilitate this conversation. So I’m challenging you to document their legacy.  Start today.  Why not make this a Christmas present?  I’m telling you…. it’s an impactful gift that preserves conversations and stories that shouldn’t be lost!   Make Christmas more purposeful this year.

Questions to Ask Your Parents

In 2011, my father-in-law’s health was rapidly declining.   Life was crazy as we were trying to purchase a home, I was working full time and pregnant.  However, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he wouldn’t be around much longer.  He was convinced he had more time and was in denial about his health.

I purchased a book called “Questions for My Father” and picked a handful of relevant questions.  It wasn’t an easy project (emotionally) but it was worth the effort… a thousand times over.

I knew I’d NEVER get him to physically write in the book (and he lived 3 hours away) so I used his emailed responses and compiled them into a Mixbook. (If you’ve never made a digital scrapbook you should consider Mixbook. It’s easy and fast to make a book.) Truthfully, it wasn’t easy getting answers because he typically only responded in 1-2 words.  I had to re-ask the questions a few times and probably completely bugged him.

At the time, I was 9-months pregnant with our first son so he couldn’t get too upset with me.  I compiled his answers into this book and presented it to him and his children at Christmas.

He died 4 months later.

This book is now unbelievably important to my family.   My first son was only 4 months and won’t remember his Grandpa Heter.   We only have one picture of him holding our son.  Having his words memorialized about parenting, marriage and life is truly precious.

Question Examples

If you don’t want to purchase a book, at least consider starting with these 10 questions.  They might not all be applicable but change them to work for your family.

  • How did you meet mom? Where did you take her on your first date?
  • What have you learned from being a dad/ mom?
  • What’s the best part of having a son /daughter?
  • What did you want to be growing up?
  • What was your most memorable Christmas?
  • Can you tell me a time you stood up for something when it was hard?
  • What is your biggest regret? Success?
  • What’s the craziest/mischievous thing you did as a child?
  • What was the hardest part of parenting?
  • What’s something you know now, that you wished you knew when you were younger?

Legacy Book Example

Here is an example of a Legacy book I made for my husband’s Grandma on her 80th birthday. This one was easier (and harder) to make because she had a LOT of information to share.  It was an amazing moment watching her eyes sparkle as she flipped through the pages.

A few years earlier, I made a Mixbook for my Mom. I had each of my siblings write down their favorite memories of her and presented it on her 70th birthday.







Healing Opportunities

I know not everyone has great relationships with their parents or grandparents. This conversation could re-open wounds.  But…it could present healing opportunities and facilitate a conversation towards reconciliation.  Maybe pick up one of the books and pick only a handful of questions.  If you don’t want to make a book, consider casually asking the questions and documenting them over the course of a few months.

Just start today.  Please?   The books I used are linked below for your convenience.

What about you? Have you documented your family’s legacy in anyway?