In today's hectic world, family traditions are an important way to establish lasting bonds and create a sense of belonging. They're a wonderful way to keep those you love closer together and create warm memories that will last a lifetime.
Traditions can be as simple as serving a favorite birthday meal on a special plate or planning popcorn and a movie together every Friday night. Some families have established more elaborate traditions, like spending summers together at the beach, taking a family ski vacation during the winter holidays or tending a family garden.
Some traditions are rituals that are passed down from generation to generation, and help create a sense of unity and belonging among its members. Holiday traditions, such as carving a pumpkin at Halloween, leaving cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, even hitting those early Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving, help make the occasion even more special and create wonderful memories.
While many family traditions are built around cultural and religious holidays, traditions can be built around everyday events or "just because." They can be serious and meaningful, such as lighting candles together to mark Hanukkah or other religious holiday, or simply going to weekly worship services together. They can also be lighthearted and fun, such as eating breakfast foods for dinner or scheduling an occasional day reserved for board games, movies and baking cookies.
Counselors and child psychologists urge families to build their own traditions because they strengthen family bonds and help children feel safe and emotionally healthy. Traditions provide structure and offer continuity and safety in a climate of constant change, where families can look very different from home to home and extended families are spread apart over vast geographic areas [source: Creamer].
A study done at George Washington University's Family Research Center indicated that children benefit greatly from households with established rituals, even when problems like divorce or alcoholism arise. Activities like setting the table, sharing a meal together, or reading a book before bedtime helps strengthen the family bond. Daily rituals can even help family members resolve any issues as they working together in constructive situations [source: Dengel].
If your family doesn't have any traditions to call its own, it's never too late to begin. Read on to learn more about introducing new traditions to your family.
Tips for Introducing New Traditions to Your Family
How can you introduce new traditions to your family? Whether your children are toddlers or teenagers, there are many ways to establish meaningful new rituals that will become a part of your family's past, present, and future.
Start by talking about how much you care about each member of the family and your desire to maintain close relationships with them. Then discuss the activities you're doing now that keep you close and brainstorm other things that you might enjoy doing together. Listen to every family member's ideas and let them know their input is valued. Discuss every suggestion and decide as a family what traditions you'd like to initiate. Whatever you decide to implement, they'll be more successful if every family member buys into the idea.
When it comes to initiating new traditions, keep it simple. Traditions don't need to be elaborate; some of the best traditions start simply, if not by accident. They can be as easy as reading together with your child before bedtime, sharing family dinners, washing the car together on weekends, or going out for ice cream after a baseball game.
These traditions can involve other relatives as well. Rituals that involve extended family help broaden a child's experience, whether it's holiday dinners, going fishing with Grandpa or taking a summer road trip to visit cousins. Getting to know grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins help make kids feel special. Family stories, especially those about mom or dad when they were young, help establish common ground. They also create a network of belonging that lasts long after your children leave home.
When you're brainstorming new traditions, make sure the rituals suit your family. An active, outdoorsy family will enjoy a bike ride on Sunday morning, while a Saturday afternoon movie might make more sense for the artsy family who loves classic films. These traditions have the potential to grow right along with the family: A ride around the block with a preschooler could become a cross-town trek with a teenager; viewings of the latest G-rated movie might grow into a shared fascination with fantasy films. Some rituals help reinforce positive habits. Sharing your feelings and talking about the problems of the day over dinner, going for an evening walk or reading before turning out the lights are just a few possibilities that can have a healthy, long-lasting impact on your loved ones.
Whatever you do, though, be flexible. Sometimes it just isn't possible to make Sunday night's spaghetti dinner every week. Be sure to allow enough flexibility for your son to meet a friend for tennis or spend Thanksgiving with a cousin. That helps the tradition continue to feel like a positive event to be anticipated, instead of an obligation.
Whether you're 5 or 95, family traditions bring a welcome touch of familiarity and fun to everyday events and special occasions. There's no doubt that being a part of a family that works and plays together helps improve self-image and happiness, establishing bonds and relationships that last a lifetime.
Are you ready for summer with your family? Take this quiz to see how much you know about summertime traditions.
- Creamer, Beverly. "Creating Family Traditions." HawaiiBusiness.com. August 2010. (Accessed August 11, 2011) http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/Hawaii-Business/August-2010/Creating-Family-Traditions/
- Dengel, Janet. "Family Rituals and Traditions." Disney's Family.com. (Accessed August 11, 2011) http://family.go.com/parenting/pkg-school-age/article-796126-family-rituals-and-traditions-t/
- Kimball, Herrick. "Establishing Family Traditions." The Deliberate Agrarian. (Accessed August 11, 2011) http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/2008/01/establishing-family-traditions.html.
- Lexicon Consulting, Inc. "14 Fun Family Traditions to Start Today." Parents.com. (Accessed August 11, 2011) http://www.parents.com/holiday/christmas/traditions/creating-family-traditions/
- Oxenreider, Tsh. "Family Traditions: 10 Ideas to Get You Started." Simple Mom.net. (Accessed August 11, 2011) http://simplemom.net/family-traditions-10-ideas-to-get-you-started/
- Sern, Joanne. "Creating Everyday Rituals that are Meaningful for Your Family." Psychology Today. November 29, 2010. (Accessed August 14, 2011) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/parenting-is-contact-sport/201011/creating-everyday-rituals-are-meanigful-your-family.