“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from
the relationship.” — Brené Brown
Connection. Feeling connected to loved ones and the world around them is crucial for children’s well-being and healthy emotional development. Connection occurs when caregivers empathize with children’s experiences, support children’s ideas and interests and encourage curiosity.
According to Alisa Jaffe Hollerton, author of “An Unexpected Journey,” the following four reasons are why connection is so important to the healthy development of children.1
Connection makes children feel like they are not alone. We all know that we can feel lonely even when we are in the presence of others. It is not simply being in the same room but being connected that feels good to us.
Connection makes children feel important It gives them the message that they matter and are loved.
Connection increases children’s self-esteem. If they are worth their caregivers’ time then children feel that they have value and are worthy of love.
Connection becomes internalized and gives children confidence when they are away from their caregivers. It bolsters children’s self-esteem.
Parents’ and caregivers’ nurturing from birth on fuels connections and supports healthy social-emotional development in children.
“Knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.” — Bruce Feiler
Two ways that families can foster connection are learning about family history and celebrating their own personal history. Researching family history provides families the opportunity to learn about the lives of others. It also helps family members to understand themselves and their own experiences better within the context of world events, both present and past. “The single most important thing [people] can do for [their] family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative. The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believe their families function.”2
Knowing their family history gives young people a “place in the world”, allowing them to connect with something bigger than themselves, as well as giving them a deeper understanding of who they are and where they come from. Even when the narrative is not always positive, it is still one that should be told. “Whether it’s good, bad or somewhere in between, the stories of families and heritage provide kids with a sense of belonging, and even more than that, a kind of resiliency…”3
The desire to connect with family, both past and present, and to understand one’s place in life’s narrative is strong and shared by many, as evidenced by fact that family history/genealogy is one of the most popular pastimes in America.
While some individuals enjoy digging through the past to discover “lost” family, others do not. Because of past traumas or unpleasant occurrences, digging in the past for some may be painful or uncomfortable. For those people, family history can still be shared with their children; however, instead of going back generations, they can, instead, focus on their immediate family and/or on the children themselves. Here’s how.4
Story time. Caregivers can tell stories about their life. By filling these tales with interesting details, humor and/or unusual facts, children’s imaginations are captured. Sharing family stories can be an everyday occurrence, happening around the kitchen table, in the car or at bedtime.
Family photos. Pictures make the past come alive. Children especially enjoy pictures showing how fashions and hairstyles have changed over the years.
“The same way one tells a recipe, one tells a family history. Each one of us has our past locked inside.” — Laura Esquivel
Family food history. Throughout history, food has been an important part of holidays and family gatherings. Either using family recipes or preparing dishes from different countries where ancestors originated is a great way to connect children to the past.
More Ways to Connect Children With Their Family and Personal History
1 Jaffe Hollerton, A. (2018, February 1). Connection is Important to Healthy Development in Children. https://alisajaffeholleron.com/inspiration-for-all-parents/connection-important-to-healthy-development-in-children/.
2 Feiler, B. (2013, March 15). The Stories That Bind Us. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html.
3 Rohm Nulsen, C. (2019, September 10). All Kids Need to Know They’re Part of a Narrative Bigger Than Themselves, Here’s Why. https://www.familyeducation.com/the-importance-of-developing-a-strong-family-narrative-for-your-kids
4 Involve Children and Youth in Family History. (n.d.). https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Involve_Children_and_Youth_in_Family_History