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Dear Elizabeth,
I am the mother of two children. My 3-year-old loves to hear stories about himself & our family over & over again. Why is he so fascinated?
Rosa Flores Houston, Texas
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
Host
  • Talk to your child about his life when he or she was younger
  • Tell your child stories about your family, your past experiences & your culture
  • Share family photos & heirlooms
Expert Advice
Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy
Child psychiatrist
Children love hearing stories about themselves because we all like to feel part of a whole. So it’s important for them to feel connected, because every child has to bond to somebody, their primary caregiver, and they also have to feel connected to a greater whole. So it really gives them a context of self-esteem, who they are, and where they came from.

There are a lot of blended family situations. There’s also adoptions, there’s surrogacies, there’s divorces, there’s all different kinds of family situations. So you need to look at each case individually, and then you have to really be able to say, “What am I able to disclose to this child?” If it is an adoption, am I able to give biological parent information, or family history. Then once you know what you’re able to disclose appropriately, you give age-appropriate information. But the big key is to give to your child the information and then let them ask questions. That’s the big part. They’ll direct you and guide you into what they need to know, and what they’re ready to know and handle.

Never talking about family history is never good because it becomes something like, “Ooh, we don’t talk about that.” It becomes a taboo thing. There really doesn’t need to be all that energy built around it and that negativity. You want it to be an open place for a child to explore themselves. Everybody needs to know that they’re connected and that they have a foundation.

There’s a lot of great ways you can talk with children about their family history. You can get a map or a globe and show them where you originated, or where your ancestors came from. You can draw pictures; get the clothing from that country; cook the food; photographs of old relatives or people that have maybe passed on, to give them a lineage and to know that there was a lot of work that was done before they came to build a life for them.

Family heirlooms can be a great way to explore your family history. You can show children lots of different things which have been passed down from generation to generation: cookbooks, photos, jewelry, etc. They really help to make somebody feel like, “Wow, this was in someone’s hands that may not be here anymore, but they touched this.” They give children tangible, concrete things to hold onto.
Child Care Provider Comments
Julie Nguyen
Julie Nguyen
Mother of three
I teach my children about their family history by talking to them about their Vietnamese history and culture. We visit and talk to their grandparents often. I share photos with them and talk to them about their grandpa that died and tell them how different it was when their grandparents and I were growing up. We try to speak the language in the family as much as possible. My kids will remind me to speak Vietnamese if I’m speaking too much English. They say, “If you are telling me to speak our native language than you need to too.” I am putting them in Vietnamese School to learn how to read and write Vietnamese.
Karolina Ramirez
Karolina Ramirez
Child care provider for 6 years
To help teach children about their family history, we created a family scrap book. Each child was given a bag filled with crayons and markers and paper to take home. The idea was that the child and parents were to create a page for the scrap book specific to their family’s history and culture. They glued pictures of their family, foods native to their particular culture, clothing, or anything that they think represents who they are to the page. Then at the bottom the parents wrote out descriptions and explanations as to what each item represented. We compiled each child’s page into one large book. Then we sat down and looked at the book together. Each child gets to talk about their page while the others ask questions.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
My granddaughter is half-Mexican and part American Indian/Irish/German. I use photos a lot. A photo of her other grandmother is on the wall. She died before my granddaughter was born. She knows that is her other grandma. She also loves to see pictures of her mom when she was little.

Family Quilt Featured Activity:
Family Quilt
Family History Featured Video:
Family History
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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