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Genealogy and family history are concepts that may seem both intimidating and fascinating for kids. How can they understand that people they’ve never met have contributed to their presence on earth? How do you describe the links that unite each family member, whether they’re alive or distant ancestors?
We often share family stories with our little ones, and to illustrate these, a family tree for kids may prove quite useful.
Here are some tips for explaining the family tree to a child
There are several types of family trees, including the descending tree and the ascending tree. Since the ascending tree is more common, we’ll use this one in the examples. The difference between the two is that the ascending tree starts from one person and traces their ancestors, while the descending tree takes shape by starting from the ancestor and illustrating the lineages of their descendants.
For a child, the ascending tree is also easier to understand, since they can quickly make connections between people by starting with the ones they already know.
Sparking children’s interest in their family history
The first challenge is to awaken the curiosity of your children, if this isn’t something that they’ve already developed. By telling them stories featuring their ancestors, they’ll feel a pride and a fascination towards this family affiliation. In many cases, this will result in them wanting to learn more. To make things clear, we suggest starting with people they already know, like their grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. Then, we move up the line by presenting the ancestors that came before them. Being able to associate stories and facts with different family members will help the family tree come to life before their eyes.
Explaining the family ties
A child understands very quickly that they live in a family unit. They know their parents, their brothers and sisters, and all the other family members they see regularly. As this concept is absorbed by the child, it will be rather simple to make them understand the family ties of the people who make up the other sections of the family tree.
Indeed, in the beginning, we recommend looking at each part of the tree separately, so the child can absorb the information at their own pace. From the start, we can look at the whole tree and make a general presentation, but when the time comes to explain more in detail, it’s better to do it little by little.
Introducing the concept of generations and fraternity
Young people tend to live in the present moment. Although they understand the fact that their parents and grandparents are older, they don’t always make the connection that there are different generations of people. On a family tree, the vertical line makes it possible to separate the generations of a family. The horizontal line, for its part, designates the concept of fraternity. By looking at these lines, the child can therefore quickly understand the difference and become better equipped to grasp the idea of the past and the fact that everyone comes from a family unit.
Ask questions and make them play detective
To see if your child has fully understood, it’s helpful to follow up by asking them what – in their opinion – family trees are used for. Their response will let you know if they’ve grasped the concept. To expand their knowledge, you can also turn exploring the family tree into a game. The child then becomes a detective whose mission is to discover the connections and trace the family histories. Ask them to tell you who this person is in relation to them or in relation to another family member.
Even for the youngest children, this type of interaction with the family tree can help make things clearer and easier to understand.