Sharing Family Health History with Your Children

A recent article written by Harvard Health Publications, linked below, discusses the importance of sharing information about family health history with children. It’s never too early (or too late) to take action to improve your health, but the key to discussing family history with children is to reassure them rather than frighten them. 

While collecting a family health history is vital for your health, your genes are certainly not your fate. The earlier you know about your health history, the more effective your personal choices can be. Families share so much more than genetics- family members often share important aspects of their environment and lifestyle such as culture, eating habits, attitudes toward exercise. If you explain the importance of health history to your children when they are young, you can work on making healthy choices as a family and start the cycle of prevention.

Dr. Paul A. Johnson, professor of cardiology and head of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests that talking with your children about heart disease, and really any condition found in a family history, should be about discussing opportunities for prevention and possible testing. He says, “It isn’t something that should get people worried or anxious.”

Using the example of heart disease, which is very much affected by your choices as well as your family history, Dr. Johnson suggests being honest with children- tell them about your family history of heart disease, and explain what that is. There are plenty of online resources and videos for kids to help explain the different parts of the body and how we can keep them healthy. offers different interactive resources to make learning about the body fun and informative.

Be sure to inform your pediatrician of your family health history as well, and when your children are old enough, allow them to share this information with their doctor on their own. This will help your children understand from a young age the importance of sharing information about their health and their family history with their doctors.

For more information on sharing family history with your kids and to read the full article from The Harvard Heart Letter, visit: