Summertime always brings me back to my childhood. I can still remember hanging out with my grandmother and grandfather in our tiny town in Kentucky. We’d play cards together or work in the garden. They’d tell me stories about their parents and grandparents, the traditions that have been passed from one generation to the next. There were no cell phones and few electronics. Just lots of time together.
As a boy, I didn’t understand the importance of what they were doing or even why, but I definitely do now. They were passing on a legacy.
Why Leave a Legacy?
Children need to know where they come from in their family lineage. They need to feel the security that comes with being a part of something greater than themselves. In today’s me-centered culture, children and young adults also need to know that part of their success comes because previous generations invested in them, made sacrifices for them, and paved the way for them.
Ways to Build on a Legacy
My grandparents have passed away, so my boys don’t get to hang out with them like I did. But I am intentional about making sure their legacy lives on in my sons. One way I do that is by getting out our photo albums. I show them pictures of my grandparents and other family members, and I tell stories about them. I use those stories to teach my boys what it means to be a Hogan, to be a man, and to be a Christian.
Here are a few other ideas to help you create and carry on your family legacy:
1. Keep Traditions Alive
What traditions did your parents and grandparents create or pass on to you? Keep them alive with your own children. It could be keeping a garden in the summer, playing a particular card game, or even praying together at night.
2. Create New Traditions
Go to the beach every year. Go to a ball game on opening day. Celebrate milestones, like when your child loses their first tooth or gets their driver’s license. Make Friday night game-and-pizza night. Simple activities can become treasured traditions, and those traditions build a legacy.
3. Make a Family Tree Together
Be as detailed as you want in showing the generations before yours. You can use search tools and library tools to fill in the holes. And if grandparents and other older relatives are still alive, you can ask them for help. They’ll have lots of stories to share!
4. Take a Trip “Home”
If your family doesn’t live near where you grew up, take a trip to show your kids the town and the places that make up your childhood. They’ll be able to ask questions and get a visual picture of those places they’ve only known from your stories.
5. Make Digital Photo Albums
With today’s technology, you can scan and store old family photos inexpensively. That way, if something happens to the original photo, you still have the backup. It will also allow you to give the same photos to all of your children so they can then pass them along to their children one day.
6. Interview Family Members
Go with your kids to talk with grandparents, uncles, cousins and other extended family members. Ask them to tell you stories from their childhoods. Record their stories digitally so they remain after loved ones pass away.
7. Teach Them About Money
Unfortunately, many parents don’t teach their children sound money principles, but that’s one of the best legacies you can leave. Let them watch you pay bills and plan for future expenses. Pay them a commission for their work instead of giving them an allowance. Explain why you pay cash, tithe and save.
Maybe you don’t want your kids to know the details of your family history because it’s not so great. I get that. If that’s the case, then share what’s appropriate and positive. You can save the tough stuff for their adult years. Then as adults, they can choose to change that legacy.
Remember, you get to choose the direction your family tree grows. You can build on the good, let go of the bad, and make your kids’ future better than your past. It’s your legacy, so you get to change it for the better.