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4 Ways to Build a Family Bond by Tracing Your Roots

Feb 04, 2014 01:20AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

When kids ask the innocent question "Where did I come from?" most parents raise their eyebrows and try frantically to remember the details of the stork story. But what if you could teach your children a story about their heritage instead? Both children and adults seem to be naturally interested in their culture and family history, since it allows us to build a sense of identity. So, unless your little one specifically asks where babies come from (in which case, you're on your own), here's a better way to teach your child about her roots.

1. Trace your family tree

It's likely that many parents don't know much about their extended families beyond Grandma and Grandpa. Answering this question provides a good opportunity to find out for yourself. Ancestry.com is easily the most convenient and user-friendly resource for anyone interested in tracing his or her bloodline. You can browse through the site's free databases by searching through the Card Catalog. You can find a whole library of official documents—from U.S. census records to birth certificates. Use the search feature to find the names you know and trace back from there.

2. Cook a cultural dish

Whether you know a lot about your family tree or not, you probably have a good idea about the culture surrounding your heritage. For example, you might celebrate Jewish traditions or rep the Brazilian flag during the World Cup. But the best way to introduce and invite others to another culture is through its cuisine. Say your extended family hails from Thailand. You and the kids can work together to create a delicious dish of Thai noodles with spicy peanut sauce. If you don't often cook from scratch, you will want to grab an all-purpose Kitchenaid food processor, thermometer, cheese grater, whisk and any other tools that will help you be 100% prepared for anything when cooking the meal.

3. Visit a museum or cultural center

Being the melting pot that it is, the US has educational facilities all across the country that celebrate cultures around the world. The Mecca for Native American culture can be found at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, where the whole family can learn about the history of their heritage and even connect with others who identify with this culture. You can also attend a heritage festival at a local school or public event area, which could offer the opportunity to learn about yourself and others.

4. Adopt cultural traditions

On the surface, adopting the culture of distant relatives might seem a little silly, but there are actually many activities we do today that have their origin in specific cultures. For example, the tradition of putting a decorated Christmas tree in your home actually started in Germany. Throwing rice at a wedding is another common cultural practice that first originated in Ancient Rome. Wedding attendees would sometimes even use wheat to throw at the bride as a symbol of fertility. Little girls would then collect it for use in their own weddings.

The tradition you decide to adopt can be something as simple as a traditional religious prayer before meals or even a phrase like "I love you" in a foreign language to build a cultural bond with your family.

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