Recently, my mom gave me several books she had worked on last year that were filled with family photos from both sides of my family. This special gift not only showed to me how much she loves me, but also reminded me how important it is to stay connected to family. Learning about family history is important for many reasons and can include connecting on a deeper level with family.

I’m excited to share these books with my own children so they are aware of their family roots. One activity that came from this priceless gift was creating a family tree.

Creating a family tree gives families the chance to focus on the positive qualities of each family member. It will help everyone learn more about your family’s history and possibly some new things about your relatives. It provides family members an opportunity to share personal and family strengths.

This activity is designed to encourage communication along with building self-esteem and family identity. It provides an opportunity for family members to appreciate one another for the strengths each person brings to the family. It also allows your family to see just how strong it is and how each family member contributes to your family.

Materials you’ll need for this activity include:

• Posterboard or large piece of paper or cardboard

• Green construction paper or other colored paper cut into oval leaves

• Brown construction paper or another color cut into small rectangles

• Glue sticks

• Scissors

• Markers, pens, or crayons

First, draw an outline of a tree on your poster board or large piece of paper. Each branch should represent one family member. The adults in the family should have a larger branch than the children. Also, draw four roots at the bottom of the tree. The roots are the foundation of the family and represent the children’s grandparents or other special supportive people. Once the tree is drawn, you can color in the roots and branches.

Next, the adults should think of strengths or compliments for their youth and list one on each leaf. Likewise, youth should write positive things about their parents/caregivers on their leaves. Some ideas of strengths could be a good sense of humor, intelligent, hardworking, kind, etc. Once the positive traits are listed on the leaves, they can be glued on the branch for the appropriate family member.

The family should also think of good qualities about the grandparents or other special supportive people. They can list one quality on each of the brown rectangles and glue them on the roots of the tree.

Finally, the family should discuss what they feel are the strengths of their family. Maybe they work well together, have fun together, or help others. Once two or three strengths have been determined, write each strength on the brown rectangles and glue them vertically down the center of the trunk. The trees can also be personalized once completed with birds, grass, flowers, etc.

Display the tree proudly in your home. It will serve as an excellent reminder of how wonderful each family member is and what they contribute to the family; the traits the family obtained from grandparents and other significant people and how strong and resilient your family is.

To extend the activity, call grandparents or other family member sand have the children share about their family tree to others. Ask children what they liked best about the activity or what they learned about their family. Ask family members to share a family story that hasn’t been shared before. Connecting with family is a great way to strengthen family bonds.

For more resources on connecting with family, you may contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent with UT-TSU Extension in Wilson County, sphill24@utk.edu or at 615-444-9594, ext 105.

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