Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Ideas for Creating a Sense of Family Heritage

Ever since I read Family Stories that Bind from Amanda of Not Just Cute, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  Here is an excerpt from her article:

Researchers like Dr. Robyn Fivush are studying family narratives and the effects they have on children. What they’re finding is that the sharing of family stories and memories help as the children begin to build a sense of self and construct their own identities, and promote social and emotional well-being.

From inspiring stories about great -grandparents finding their way through the Great Depression to the familiar tale of how Dad broke his collarbone while on his paper route, the act of sharing family stories shape who we are, our personal identities, and our connections. They help us bond with our families and find our place in the grander scheme of life.

In our "here and now," individualistic culture I think parents fill a deep need in their children when they deliberately help them see themselves as part of something bigger than they are- something that began long before they were born.  I  love the thought of connecting my children to the parts of their heritage that I would be particularly proud for them to carry on- like sacrificially serving the poor or a history of deep Christian faith .

One creative idea Amanda gave for connecting children to family members who have already passed on was to celebrate those relatives' birthdays by "sharing their stories, eating their favorite foods, or giving service to others as a way to honor them." I love it! She also suggests having pictures of ancestors around the house and being ready for the way they spark questions about the stories and legacies behind them.

I've been trying to brainstorm about other possible ways to connect children to their family past.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Keepsakes from relatives can be gifted to a child at a particularly meaningful time in his or her life.  I have a well-loved, well-marked Bible that was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me.  I look forward to giving that to one of my children someday.

2.  Home decor that is symbolic of one's family history.  (e.g. a map or painting from the states one's grandparents lived or family tartan, crests, decor from one's country of origin)

3.  Older children can interview their grandparents and write up a report.

4.  Memory Books.  My mother-in-law was very proactive about giving her parents and in-laws a memory book like this one for them to fill out before they died.  I love that the questions in the book included a lot of memories about their parents and that my kids will get to inherit such a wonderful, multi-generational treasure.

5.  Family pilgrimages to childhood homes and places of significance to one's ancestors.  When I was about twelve it was neat to be able to visit some very old cemeteries in England with the headstones of dead ancestors with my father.

6.  Fill out family trees together and giving them a permanent place of display in one's home.

7.  Write a storybook with a human interest-type story from your family in it, and read it to your children.  For a long time, I have been meaning to write something like this describing our family's apartment fire.  I'll include pictures and copies of some of the letters we received during that time.  God worked in incredible ways through that incident, and it would be a shame if it were forgotten.

8.  Find out about unusual talents or hobbies from your family's past and teach them to one or more of your children.  One of my friends has a serious legacy of unicycle riding in her family.  I love this picture of the grandfather initiating his grandson into the tradition!

9.  Find natural ways to connect your children's good impulses with your family's history. e.g. "It's neat that you want to help the missionaries at our church by _______.  You know your Aunt So and So was a missionary to ______.  She would have been so proud to see you care so much."

10.  As a family join an organization in which one of your ancestors participated.  (e.g. many of the women on my in-laws side of the family belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution)

 Please chime in with stories or ideas you've thought of or implemented with your family.  I'd love to hear them!

Works for Me Wednesday!


Rochelle Tynes said...

Yay! Great entry, Thanks for sharing, Katey!

Sue said...

My mom used to like to think of a heritage of Godly women.

Sarahwright99 said...

In the Eastern Church, we also place great import on connecting our children to their entire "family history" of the saints.  Icons around the house provide visible reminders of the faithful throughout time; celebrating a child's name day (the feast day of the saint they were named for) is a time for them to remember that saint's life and try to emulate it. 

Katie said...

LOVE this! What a great idea. And I can see how these can be adapted for single parents and blended families as well.