How Can I Help My Child Understand Our Family’s Legacy?

Throughout April 2012, we’ll be working on the concept of “legacy.”

All our discussions and activities will aim to help our students understand that is what you leave behind. It’s what people remember about you, a team you were on or a school or class you were part of — even after the season or year is over.

Powerful Words is the name of our character development curriculum here at Urban Martial Arts. It’s designed by one of the nation’s leading childhood development experts, Dr. Robyn Silverman. Every month, we’ll focus on a different Powerful Word, or concept around character development.

In this post, Dr. Robyn answers a question from a parent who wants to preserve her family history to help her children see where they come from.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

There seems to be such a lack of connection these days with all these cell phones and text messages. Who really knows anyone anymore? I really want to preserve my family history and help my children see where they come from. Any suggestions?

— KatieAnn D.; Durham, NC, paraphrased from an e-mail; with permission

Dear KatieAnn,

What a beautiful idea! I think it’s wonderful that you want to help preserve your family history and use your family’s story to teach your children.

People often think of the “treasures” someone leaves behind in terms of money, jewelry and other assets. But as Mark Hayes Daniell writes in Family Legacy and Leadership; “Family legacy encompasses all that a family holds dear and wants to preserve for the future – the histories, values, knowledge and experience that are just as essential as a family’s financial assets.”

I agree, don’t you? So what should we think about when we are trying to preserve our family’s legacy?

(1) Tell stories:
Whenever your family gathers, be sure to tell family stories. How did your great, great grandparents meet? What business were your great grandparents in and what were their struggles? What did your Great Aunt always say? Notable skills? Jobs? Possessions? The more people know about their family history, the more likely that family history will be preserved for future generations.

(2) Interview:
Don’t wait. Interview parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about their lives, their accomplishments, favorite moments, successes and challenges. What have they learned? What were their dreams? What do they know now that they wish they knew when they were younger? Any advice?

(3) Document:
These days there are so many ways to document people’s stories. Video taping, of course, allows the story-teller to tell his or her own story. You can also transcribe stories into print. Have your children “illustrate” the stories. They can also help you to gather photos to place next to the stories in a book that you can pass down through the generations.

(4) Ask:
How do we want to be remembered? We have control over how we live our own lives. Thus we have control over how we will be known by others while living and how we will likely be remembered for generations to come. Ask your children, “how do you want to be remembered?” Then, talk about living your life in accordance with the values for which you want to be known.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn

About Dr. Robyn:
Dr. Robyn Silverman, child development specialist, body image/body bullying expert, sought-after speaker and award-winning writer, is known for her no-nonsense yet positive approach to helping young people and their families thrive. Her ground-breaking research at Tufts University on young women is the foundation for her book, “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.”

Photo Credit: Parker Michael Knight on stock.xchng