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Children & Family Heritage

Since involving children in adult activities is nearly impossible, we usually tailor an activity we wish to share with them to fit children exclusively. We do it with holidays, education, religion, everything in fact! And yet, when we try to interest children in Family Heritage, we present it to them as an adult activity and wonder why they're bored by it.

Here are some tips to help interest the children in your life in their family heritage:

As strange as it may sound, don't start at the beginning. Pulling out your volumes of family research notebooks while talking about the family's beginnings in fifteenth century England won't do! Start with people the child knows, yourself perhaps. Children love pictures of other children, so show him or her a picture of you as a child. Is there a family resemblance? If there is your child will no doubt be astonished by it. When our youngest daughter was little she found my kindergarten picture and thought it was a black and white photo of her older sister. Not only was she amazed by the similarity, but also by the fact that I was ever a child!

Remember though, when you bring out family pictures, particularly those stiffly posed black and white photos from a century ago, that for children, stories are more vivid than unimpressive photographs. Children who have a grasp of history will be interested in family members or ancestors who lived during certain historic events such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, or Pearl Harbor. But if they have no grasp of or interest in history, children are easily enthralled by how people used to do things. For example, interest "e;your"e; child in his or her grandmother or great-grandmother by perhaps explaining how she had to build a fire in the stove before she cooked a meal.

If you're actively researching your family, take the child with you to cemeteries to look for family stones. If they are old enough to read they can be of real help and if not, they will enjoy the quiet, open air. Be careful, though, of old cemeteries with aging monuments that are apt to fall. Every year, there are injuries and deaths from old, deteriorating monuments or parts of monuments that fall.

If you scrapbook, let the child help you, not with important documents or fragile old pictures, but with something current, perhaps with the family Christmas pictures or those of a recent birthday party. Talk about how someday their little girls or boys will look at these pictures and want to know who all of these people are.

Still, as interested as "your" child may become in family heritage, he or she will grow into young adulthood or older before the desire develops to follow the family line back through the centuries. But even children want to know who they are and where they come from, and with some tailoring, your child can enjoy learning about their family's past and his or her place in its future.

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