Creating Connection for Children

Several months ago, my supervisor asked if I would be willing to pen a feature article for our monthly newsletter that goes out to educators and children’s advocates across the state. Of course, I agreed. (I am a writer, after all.) 

I then pitched an idea that I had been thinking about for some time: families using family history/genealogy to connect to each other and to “something more.”

This month, that article was published. And, because I am, after all, a family history blogger, I am sharing it with you.

“…Connection [is] the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~Brené Brown

Connection. Feeling connected to loved ones and the world around them is crucial for children’s well-being and healthy emotional development. Connection occurs when caregivers empathize with children’s experiences, support children’s ideas and interests, and encourage curiosity.

According to Alisa Jaffe Hollerton, author of An Unexpected Journey, these four reasons are why connection is so important to the healthy development of children: ¹

  1. Connection makes children feel like they are not alone. We all know that we can feel lonely even when we are in the presence of others. It is not simply being in the same room that feels good to us; it is being connected.
  2. Connection makes children feel important and shows them that they matter and are loved.
  3. Connection increases children’s self-esteem. If they are worth their caregivers’ time, then they have value.
  4. Connection becomes internalized and gives children confidence when they are away from their caregivers. It bolsters children and solidifies their self-esteem.

As professionals working with families, you comprehend that connection cultivates and strengthens children’s personal identities. Evidence has shown that when the Five Protective Factors are present in a family, relationships are strengthened, lives are made more robust, and young people flourish.

Knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being. ~ Bruce Feiler

Two ways that families can foster the Five Protective Factors, thereby creating connection, are learning about family history and celebrating their own personal history. Researching family history provides families the opportunity to learn about the lives of others. It also helps family members better understand themselves and their own experiences within the context of world events, both present and past. “The single most important thing [one] can do for [his/her] family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative. The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believe their families function.” ²

Knowing their family history gives young people a “place in the world,” allowing them to connect with something bigger than themselves, as well as giving them a deeper understanding of who they are and where they come from. Even when the narrative is not always positive, it is still necessary. “Whether it’s good, bad or somewhere in between, the stories of families and heritage provide kids with a sense of belonging and, even more than that, a kind of resiliency…” ³

The desire to connect with family, both past and present, and to understand one’s place in life’s narrative is strong and shared by many, as evidenced by fact that family history/genealogy is one of the most popular pastimes in America.

While some people enjoy digging through the past to discover “lost” family, others do not. Because of past traumas or unpleasant occurrences, digging in the past for some may be painful or uncomfortable. For those people, family history can still be shared with their children; however, instead of going back generations, they can, instead, focus on their immediate family and/or on the children themselves. Here’s how: ⁴

STORYTIME
Caregivers can tell stories about their life. By filling these tales with interesting details, humor, and/or unusual facts, children’s imaginations are captured. Sharing family stories can be an everyday occurrence, happening around the kitchen table, in the car, or at bedtime.

FAMILY PHOTOS
Pictures make the past come alive. Children especially enjoy pictures showing how fashions and hairstyles have changed over the years.

FAMILY HISTORY GAMES
Games make family history fun. Families can make up games specific to them, such as a trivia game, a matching game, or bingo. Children can even help create the game.

The same way one tells a recipe, one tells a family history. ~Laura Esquivel

FAMILY FOOD HISTORY
Throughout history, food has been an important part of holidays and family gatherings. Either using family recipes or preparing dishes from different countries where ancestors originated is a great way to connect children to the past.

TALK WITH OTHERS
Adults will often share stories with children that they have not told other adults. Encourage children of all ages to talk to their living relatives, especially the older ones. If relatives are not an option, caregivers/parents can tell tales of their younger years. Hearing stories about what life was like “back then” helps young people learn about the past and connect to the present. This connection also brings generations together and establishes strong bonds.

TELL THEIR OWN TALES
Children and teenagers can also document their own personal histories. Their stories matter too, not only to themselves and their family but to future generations. Younger children can draw pictures of the things they enjoy or special times they have had. Older children and teenagers can keep a journal or write stories from their lives or create a scrapbook or photo album, using a camera, phone, or handheld device to photograph events and/or family members.

 

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Want more ways to connect children with their family and/or personal history? Then check out these resources:

 

Citations

  1. Jaffe Hollerton, A. (2018, February 1). Connection is Important to Healthy Development in Children. https://alisajaffeholleron.com/inspiration-for-all-parents/connection-important-to-healthy-development-in-children/.
  2. Feiler, B. (2013, March 15). The Stories That Bind Us. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html.
  3. Rohm Nulsen, C. (2019, September 10). All Kids Need to Know They’re Part of a Narrative Bigger Than Themselves, Here’s Why. https://www.familyeducation.com/the-importance-of-developing-a-strong-family-narrative-for-your-kids
  4. Involve Children and Youth in Family History. (n.d.). https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Involve_Children_and_Youth_in_Family_History

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, This Is My Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Creating Connection for Children

  1. Pingback: Crunching the Numbers, 2020 | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

  2. Pingback: *Press This* Creating Connection for Children #152 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  3. That’s funny, and oh-so-true, Teresa! 🙂

    Like

  4. Yes—it’s wonderful for me and for them!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great reminders! One of my nephews recently showed an interest in his tree, however, I made the mistake of giving a child of the digital world a paper copy of his pedigree chart…he left it behind 🤣…I will send it to him digitally instead…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s sounds wonderful, Amy! I know their illustrations will make your family stories shine!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  8. Love this. I am writing a second novel inspired by my family history. And this time I have gotten my grandsons involved. They are drawing the illustrations. Along the way I tell them a story or two about their 4x great-grandparents, the “stars” of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Eilene. I too hope they find the information valuable for themselves and the families that they serve.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful article. I hope many who read it put your advice into practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My deepest condolences on the loss of your sister, Carol. You are in my prayers.

    As to the lost opportunities, I know what you mean. Many of us were raised with some family members who never talked about the past. So much history, so many people’s stories lost… it makes me so sad.

    Although I cannot turn back time and talk tales with all those family members I wish I had, I am trying to know them better with the records available and through “meeting” previously unknown family members who have stories to share.

    Kudos to you on sharing the stories you do know with your son. You are giving him a wonderful legacy, whether it is one story or a hundred. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Carol Radowenchuk

    I have mixed feelings. Since losing my sister in February, I am the last of my Barclay family. A case of too late smart? I do have one son that loves to hear the stories that I do know, but it is sad that I know very little.

    Liked by 1 person

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