Teaching children about their Heritage: What's your story?

As my children get older, they have begun the parade of questions kids typically ask parents. They are naturally curious about themselves and where they come from. Living in the great melting pot makes questioning our roots natural. Oftentimes kids don’t have a close relationship with their grandparents and its not uncommon to live several states away. This has changed the way families interact and share their culture.

The age-old tradition of oral storytelling is lost on this generation. This is why passing on your family heritage to your children is more important than ever. So, how do we begin? If someone in your family keeps good records, you are in luck. You will have an easier time than most.

Search the records, make copies and share your findings with your children. The most important thing is to preserve your findings digitally or in writing so your children can pass it onto their children. If little or no records are kept, there is still hope. Technology has made searching records an easy task. Companies like Ancestry.com, 23andme.com, and Familysearch.org make it simple to build a family tree by searching online records.

Two things to consider are genealogies and personal histories. Genealogies are the actual names of your ancestors. A personal history includes the details of an individual’s life such as where they were born, their ethnicity and where they went to school.

Histories can also include more intimate details like childhood stories or a funny experience. All these details work together to paint a picture of who your ancestors were. These will be the most interesting to your children.


1. Complete the family tree section that’s located in the front of most family Bibles together. Have them complete the family tree in their own Bible. Younger children can draw a picture of a relative and get help writing their name.

2. Pick a relative and put their picture in a prominent spot in your house. Every time you see the picture that week, tell you children something about the person’s life including funny, witty, or courageous stories. For younger children, act the story out with them and pretend they are the relative. Use props to make it more fun.

3. Visit a relative together and learn about their childhood. Talk to your children about how times have changed and if these changes are good or bad. Younger children would enjoy playing with old things in an attic while their relative talks about how they used them.

4. If your child is adopted and their family history is unknown, encourage them to research you and your spouse’s family history, encouraging them to see themselves as a full-fledged member of the family.

5. For older children, you may want to research a people group or historical event which shaped your family’s path. For sensitive topics, I would wait until you are sure your child is mature enough to handle it.

Every time I set out to teach my children something, I end up learning something new myself. I hope this is the case for you. Enjoy learning with your children while they are young and still desire to learn about the world around them. Just remember, keep the conversations natural and age-appropriate and you will keep their interest.

Happy heritage hunting!