Written by Dr. Caron Goode
At one point or another, every child wonders where they came from, and that desire goes far deeper than wondering how they came into being biologically. Most children have an innate desire to connect to those who came before them and to understand how their family became who they are today. During the holiday season, families are presented with several practical opportunities to teach their children about their family's heritage.
Children are curious about what life was like before them. Children may wonder what roles family members played in their communities or what contributions they made to their world. They're likely to ask what their parents did for fun before television, video games and the internet.
Our heritage influences who we are and who we become. Teaching children about their family history provides an opportunity for them to understand and appreciate their heritage. Why do family members share a strong facial feature? Why do siblings have fantastic voices? Discovering commonalities across generations fosters a sense of gratitude for their heritage as they learn about the trials and the struggles family members endured so that they could live life as they know it today.
Here are 5 things parents can pass down to their kids that will cultivate a connection to their family's past.
1. A recipe. Most families share a 'secret recipe' that has become a special family favorite. Most often, this recipe has been handed down from generation to generation and has a special story that goes along with it. One family I know has a special banana bread recipe they make. They do so because it reminds them of their great, great grandmother Gladys who prepared it as a hearty meal with bananas she didn't want to go to waste when times were tough. Another family who has two adopted children from Ethiopia prepares Injera, an Ethiopian bread, each holiday. They do so to help their children remember the traditions, culture and food they experienced in their homeland.
2. A craft, hobby or talent. It's not uncommon for a family to have a line of individuals who share the same talent or interest. Some families are filled with musicians, artists or chefs. Others enjoy a hobby like hunting, knitting or woodworking that has passed from one generation to another. One family I know teaches all the girls in the family to knit and each year they knit baby caps to donate to local hospitals and shelters at Christmastime. Another family of talented bakers has an annual Cookie Swap. Family members bake and elaborately decorate cookies and on Christmas Eve, they exchange trays of goodies, after other family members judge whose cookies are best.
3. Photographs. During the holiday season, one family I know spends the after-dinner hours looking through volumes of family photo albums that have handwritten notes describing who is who and where each photo was taken. The children love looking through this visual history that details how their family came to be. Another family takes a family portrait each major holiday and sets them in special 'family books.' One book is reserved for each child in the family so that they have their own book to pass onto their children.
4. A tradition. Whether formal or not, all families have traditions like serving a special holiday meal or reading a special story on Christmas Eve. During the holiday season, one family spends an evening serving dinner to the homeless. In this particular family, that tradition dates back for more than 50 years! Take time to talk to your children about why you do the things you do during the holiday season and give them an opportunity to be involved.
5. A song. The holidays are filled with songs. In my family, my three sisters and I sang O Holy Night as we helped mother cook and serve the 40 family members. Another family I know enjoys teaching their children a few holiday songs in their family's native language each year. Another sings songs with their children that they remember hearing their grandparents sing at holiday celebrations when they were young. Music is a wonderful teaching tool and most children love learning new songs and dances that they can share with their family.
During the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on your family's heritage. When you do, you'll be surprised at the simple ways you can help your children connect to their past.
Dr. Caron Goode is a well-respected leader in the parent coaching industry as the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International (academyforcoachingparents.com) that trains students in the empowerment model of parent coaching. Dr. Goode has shared her holistic approach to achieving parenting success and managing family relationships in magazines, newspapers and radio. Her most recent books include The Art and Science of Coaching Parents and award-winning Raising Intuitive Children, raisingintuitivechildren.com .