Are questions like “Dad, did you ever meet George Washington?” common in your household? They are in mine. Getting young kids involved in family history is great, we just need to remember that they are still learning the concepts of ancestry and family trees. So you might have to start out with the basics.
Children know the world around them the best. It can be hard for them to imagine someone living a long time ago in a land far away. Here are a few things that you can do to introduce young children to your family’s history.
Keep It Simple
Most young children know who their grandparents are. But ask them who their dad’s dad is and they can get stumped. Simplify the family tree to help them understand. Tell them that dad’s dad is your grandfather. Mom’s brother is their uncle. Grandmother’s mother is your great grandmother. Using these types of examples help them understand the structure of a family.
Lots of parents, like myself, give their children names with special meanings within the family. It could be the name of a loved relative, or a family last name that isn’t used anymore. Explaining to your child where their name came from is a great way to expose them to their family history.
Grandparents’ Real Names
It is common for grandparents to have nicknames like NaNa, MeMa or Gran. There is nothing wrong with these names, but we also need to teach our children that their grandparents have real names just like us. Our kids don’t have to use these real names all the time, but this is knowledge they should learn.
Maiden names can be confusing to kids. You mean mom had a different name before she got married? That’s weird. Talking about maiden names can be easier when you relate it to the names of maternal grandparents. This helps make the connection that mom is a child of those grandparents.
Exposing our children to their family history is easy to do, especially when done in small steps. While you are riding in the car or looking at family pictures, throw in a few questions like “Who is mom’s mom?” or “What is granddad’s real name?”. This will help them begin to understand how their family is structured and that George Washington was dead long before dad was ever born.