Family History for Children—Mike Sandberg at RootsTech 2019

September 8, 2019  - by 

Let’s admit that certain aspects of family history can be confusing or even—dare we say it?—boring to children and youth.  Scouring 17th-century British tax records for a seventh great-uncle’s middle name might not hold their attention for very long, right?

Young families especially need an approach that introduces people of all ages to the joys and even fun of temple and family history work—but in the simplest way possible.

A little boy talks to his father

Mike Sandberg, a researcher and project manager at FamilySearch, recently taught a class at RootsTech on this very issue. As it turns out, there are other things to do besides scouring tax records!

Say good-bye to family history that puts your kid to sleep. Instead, say hello to family history that inspires, motivates, comforts, thrills, captivates, amuses, cheers, consoles . . . the list goes on. 

Guiding Principles for Involving the Whole Family

So how exactly does one go about making temple and family history both accessible and interesting to youth and children? The class offered six principles to follow:  

1. Seek inspiration.

two children pray with their mother over family history

Heavenly Father knows the stories or details that will interest your children. Study the available tools, then ask Him to guide you.       

2. Be real.

Life rarely goes as planned. We can learn from our ancestors’ challenges and feel inspired by the difficulties they faced—especially when their struggles mirror our own.

3. Stick together.

Family history is a family pursuit. Work together and share your discoveries. You will enjoy a richer, fuller experience if you do.

4. Keep the experience short.

A series of brief, easy encounters with family history is usually more effective than a single event. 

5. Be spontaneous.

a family cooks together

Look for opportunities to share and talk about your family’s history with your children throughout the day. Breakfast, walks, playtime, grocery shopping—these opportunities are everywhere, if you’re looking.

6. Talk—then tech.

Make sure your family history activities include ample amounts of short conversation. This is what kids want. It’s what holds their attention.  

Read more about these principles at “Discover, Gather, and Connect Your Family Together.”

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Temple and family history work for the family should be activity-based—people doing, talking, and interacting with one another. To that end, FamilySearch has created a robust catalog of activities specifically designed for families to try out together. Check them out:

a mother and daughter talk about family history at the temple

About Me—activities that help people discover more about themselves. They encourage you to consider your name, for example, and where it comes from and why it was chosen.

My Family—activities that help a person learn about his or her family, both the living and those who have passed on. One possibility is to cook your family’s favorite meal and then share stories associated with it.

The Temple—activities that prepare children, youth, and even adults for the temple. Small children may not be able to serve inside the temple, but they can still enjoy the beautiful grounds outside of one or they can view pictures of the outside and inside of temples throughout the world. Children can also plan for their temple trip someday!

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, commented on the importance of an activity-based approach to family history: “These [activities] are easy and natural opportunities for children to have their first experience with family history in a fun and interactive way,” she said.

“What a wonderful opportunity to draw families together, to get to know each other better, and to cherish family ties on both sides of the veil.”

A Time and Place for Everything

As you can see, the activities on show that temple and family history service is a flexible endeavor—adaptable to the needs, interests, abilities, and ages of those involved. As President Dallin H. Oaks has said, “Members should participate by prayerfully selecting those ways that fit their personal circumstances at a particular time.”

Even the smallest efforts to learn more about your family history can bless and strengthen your family. President Oaks continued: “Our effort is not to compel everyone to do everything, but to encourage everyone to do something.”

FamilySearch’s Family History Activities can be that something!  Watch Mike Sandberg’s full class.

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