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.