Why helping kids explore and value their heritage is important.
By: Emily Groleau, Root & Seed Editor
Have you ever seen a kid get really excited about something they care about? Young people often throw their whole heart and soul into their passions, whether that’s hours and time dedicated to a cause, craft, or hobby—but what if the adults around kids, and the schools they went to, did more to inspire kids to explore and “own” their roots? And why is this important?
Cultural connections provide a sense of belonging. Cultural heritage is personal, and how culture might “look” in one family is rarely going to be the exact same in another. When kids are taught that their family story matters and has value, this can give them a sense of belonging with a larger community that shares their roots. In fact, knowing your roots has even been linked to increased self-confidence.
Embracing individuality inspires creativity. When kids are asked to self-reflect and express something about their own experience of culture, this can help them take pride in part of their identity that exists apart from their peers or wider community. Kids are also more driven to be curious and channel a more creative side when given the opportunity to focus on projects or activities that align with something deeply personal in their lives.
Exploration leads to appreciation. When kids are equipped to explore their cultural heritage, this can lead to a greater appreciation for not only their own roots, but others’ as well. While fostering this appreciation at home is important, some kids may not have the resources to delve into research more independently. This is why it’s crucial to also have classroom environments where kids are encouraged to go beyond a basic, definition-based understanding of cultural heritage, and really engage with it.
Appreciation fosters more genuine connections. Wanting connection with others is part of being human, and when kids feel like they’re in a space where differences are appreciated, they’re often more comfortable opening up to one another and being “seen” as their authentic selves. Starting classroom conversations around cultural heritage from a young age can help normalize more empathetic social connections, as kids learn to appreciate their family history alongside peers who bring differing (but also similar!) worldviews to the table.
Wisdom from the past can be healing. In the words of Maya Angelou, “if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” Learning about cultural heritage can tell us a lot about who came before us, and how we got to where we are today. Importantly, recognizing dark periods and losses from the past can also help us to forge better paths forward. Allowing kids to be curious about past knowledge can have benefits throughout their lives. After all, many adults today are just beginning to find joy and even healing by turning back to traditional wisdom and practices—so imagine what the future might look like if more kids started these journeys of discovery earlier in life.
Caring about the past preserves heritage for the future. With more information at their fingertips than any previous generation, today’s youth is uniquely positioned to make huge steps forward in learning about and sharing cultural knowledge. The kids who’ve already begun to grow up with a greater awareness of their culture’s importance are also likely to be passionate about fighting to preserve it for the generations to come.
A desire to pass on cultural heritage to our children and grandchildren is a driving force for many of us as we start exploring our roots. At Root & Seed, we want to empower people with their stories. This is why we encourage everyone to start a conversation with a loved one today to begin safekeeping your family’s unique heritage.
Why do you think it’s important to help youth explore and value their cultural heritage? Share in the comments below!