Listening to parents or grandparents tell old stories about family members is something many children enjoy. But did you know it can actually help their development?
Children who understand their heritage tend to have higher self-esteem and can handle stress better. They also feel more connected to their family and develop a stronger understanding of who they are. But how do you go about helping your child build these important connections? In this article, we’ll be exploring different ways and tactics to connect children to their heritage in a positive and meaningful way.
People have been telling stories since language existed and possibly a long time before that point. Stories connect a person to a person, a culture to a culture, and an identity to a larger group of identities. This makes stories an incredibly powerful tool.
You can start with stories about your family. What do you remember from growing up? What stories did your parents tell you? Is there anything about your family you don’t want to be forgotten? Going through these things with your children will allow you to pass on this knowledge and information.
You can also look into stories about the distant past. Look into your ancestry and seek out stories from the groups you descended from. If your ancestors are from Japan, look into the most famous stories in Japanese history or look for nonfiction stories about the land’s history. Reading those will connect you to the people that lived there decades or even centuries ago.
Cultures revolve around food. This essential part of life forms a strong thread through which people bind themselves. Over time, the specific foods people eat and the ceremonies surrounding them have played a vital role in the culture’s development.
Once again, you can start with what you know. Think about the meals your parents or grandparents made growing up. Are there any that stick out to you for any reason? Are there any that are particularly unique? Try making those with your children. Doing so allows you to pass down the cooking process and allow them to enjoy the same tastes and flavors.
Alongside this, you can try out foods from your ancestors. Once again, this may require a little research to discover where your ancestors are from. But, from there, the process is easy.
You can start by simply trying the food. If your ancestors are Italian, look for an Italian restaurant and go out for a nice dinner. Before you go, research the location to ensure it represents the culture authentically.
From there, you can try your hand at cooking. Online recipes and videos make cooking even obscure foods easier than ever. Doing so allows you to experience the tastes of the past while also experiencing the actual cooking process. Cooking with your kids is an amazing activity that helps them learn more about food and food choices.
Want to learn more ways you can build connections with your kids? Check out our Activities for Kids, Adults, and Families!
Photos and Videos
For many people, having something visual helps them connect. That is why pictures and videos are so important.
Start with pictures and videos from your personal life. Show your children pictures of you when you were a child. Alongside this, share pictures and videos of their grandparents, great-grandparents, and anyone else you have media from. Try to show pictures that include surroundings so your children can understand the environment these people were surrounded by.
From there, move on to pictures and videos from your cultural heritage. Look up the important artistic creations from your culture’s past. These could be famous paintings and drawings. However, it can also be famous movies filmed or created in your family's country. You can even try painting something or filming your own short film!
The added bonus of doing all this is that it makes your children more well-rounded. They not only learn more about their heritage, they learn more about art and film.
Related: The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids
Talk to Someone
An effective way to learn about your heritage is to go right to the source. Talking to people that represent this heritage will teach you about it in a way that nothing else can.
Seek out any older relatives you may have. A grandparent or even a great-grandparent can be a great place to start. Ask them about their past and what it was like for them growing up. In addition, ask them what they remember about their own parents or grandparents.
Make sure to inquire specifically about traditions or other unique cultural events. Sometimes, an older family member will have participated in traditions or celebrations that were, for whatever reason, not passed down to the next generation. If these sound fun, you can even consider bringing them back by participating in them as a family at some point in the future.
Outside of relatives, people from the same country your family is from are a great resource. If your family immigrated from Greece, talking to someone who lived in Greece or who currently lives in Greece will give you a wealth of information about Greek culture and heritage.
While it may seem like it should be hard to find someone from a specific country, it is actually easier than ever. In larger towns or cities, local cultural groups are often populated with people representing a culture. For example, the Polish Falcons are a group that represents people from Poland. You can also make connections online. By doing this, you may be able to have a video call with someone who is currently living in the country you want to find out more about.
All of this also builds your children’s social skills. By doing so, they can feel more connected to the world around them in general.
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Help Your Children Build Connections and Their Identity
A strong connection to their heritage and family history is essential for developing minds. By encouraging this, you can foster a strong sense of identity. Start by telling stories or sharing food or photos. Each activity will help grow their interest and connections.
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