Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. . . . and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.2 Kings 6:16-17
God could be speaking to us here. Whenever we falter in the face of temptation or trial, they that be with us are more than they that be with them. I truly believe God has given us the support of angels through our lives. Many of us have felt it at times. To read about one of my experiences, click here. If you’ve ever hoped your kids could feel it, read on to discover simple ways to connect kids with ancestors.
One: Tell Ancestor Stories
The first step is for kids to know about their ancestors, who they are, what they did, etc. We have a lovely book that my grandmother made including life histories and pictures of all of her and my grandpa’s parents and grandparents. Looking through this book, we talked about a few of the stories I thought might interest them. My son decided to make his own family tree.
For the other branches of our family tree my husband and I had to seek out stories. We both took some time to go through memories on familysearch.org to find things to share with the kids. We both learned some things about our ancestors we didn’t know before, and it was really fun to share those together. We paraphrased the stories for our kids at bedtime and while driving. My kids love hearing personal stories at bedtime and often request that over a book, so it was fun to have some new stories to share. My son was really impacted by the stories and will mention things about them on occasion, which shows me he is making real connections with his ancestors. If you don’t have easy access to ancestors’ stories, start with stories of your childhood.
Two: Make it Kid Friendly
Life histories are pretty boring for kids to read. I used an idea from Richard and Linda Eyre to create an Ancestor Story Book. I paraphrased a story about my grandmother in easy language and left space for my son to draw pictures. I plan on adding to it over the next few years.
Three: Connect through Characteristics
As a simple but powerful way to connect kids with their ancestors, I wanted to help my kids recognize the characteristics they share with their ancestors. I decided to talk about specific gifts my kids have that their ancestors share. I drew my daughter’s face with a line down the center. (Visual storytelling always keeps my kids engaged longer.) Then I drew Dad above her on the left and Mom on the right. We had recently had a family lesson about spiritual gifts, so I mentioned the spiritual gift we had talked about which she got from her Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Then I asked the kids what she got from Mom and Dad.
My oldest immediately pointed out that she got her skin tone from her dad. We talked about some other physical traits, and then I helped them with ideas of some personality traits. We drew her face again and added a cross-length line, so her face was in quarters. I drew her grandparents around her. Then we talked about a trait she got from each grandparent—loving to take care of people, loving cleaning, wanting everyone in the family to spend time together, and being spontaneous. The kids had a really fun time with this. As we finished up the grandparent traits, my oldest wanted his turn. We drew him and talked about traits he shares with his parents and started on his grandparents before we were derailed–so it goes with little kids.
If I did it again, I think I would have each of us drawing our own faces at the same time so that we could talk about the characteristics together and get through it a little bit quicker before they lose interest. You could also do this activity with pictures or words in place of sketching.
Four: Ask Questions
Encourage other family members to tell stories of their childhood. While we were on vacation with a few of my husband’s siblings this month, my husband asked his brother to share some stories with the kids. All of the cousins listened for at least thirty minutes while the adults shared experiences, and the kids even joined in a bit with their own stories.
A few years ago we had a breakfast with my mom’s family on Independence Day. I asked about what they did for Independence Day as kids and got a few good stories. I recorded their answers on my phone, and now I can share those stories with my kids. Stories that are a part of our family story help me feel connected to the past. All it takes to get stories is a few questions.
I’m amazed at the strength that comes to me as I take the time to focus on our ancestors. I feel a greater capacity to do good and have faith as they did. So many of the things they did inspire me to work harder and be better. I feel more connected to their choices as I’ve studied them and I feel their strength as angels as they watch over our family. I hope this inspires you to take a little more time to learn about your ancestors and share what you learn with your kids. As we connect kids with ancestors, we are strengthening the generations.