Family Traditions: Worth Your Time!
Sometimes keeping these rituals can feel like a hassle or take more time and energy than parents feel they have. I understand that! Last year, after a busy fall and facing a hectic holiday season, I mentioned to my kids that instead of having us all make our holiday greeting cards together, I was going to buy them online.
This sounded like a reasonable time-saving step to me. I was surprised by my eldest’s strong reaction, “No way mom! You can’t do that!” “Why not,” I asked? “It’s our tradition! It just wouldn’t be right, you know,” he replied.
My other 2 kids agreed. When I was a child, my mother and I always made our holiday cards together. We enjoyed the creative process and time spent together making them. I loved that ritual and realized that this holiday tradition was as meaningful for my kids as it was for me. Whatever your family traditions are, they can be a shared bond for all.
The traditions in your family may:
- Be religious or spiritual. Whether you go to church, synagogue, a mosque, or stay home together, sharing your spiritual beliefs helps give your child a sense of support and stability. This can be especially important during times of stress.
- Revolve around meals. From Thanksgiving feasts or Passover seders to weekly dinners, meals can give families a chance to connect. They’re a time to share family stories and history.
- Can occur daily or weekly. Rituals that happen on a regular schedule can give children a sense of security. Some simple ideas include asking each other at dinner what the best part of the day was (many families call that the BPOD), taking time to read together before bed, or having a weekly game night. Rituals can help children feel grounded and connected.
- Be imaginary or fun. Playing up characters like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or Leprechauns, as well as dressing up for Halloween, is a whole lot of fun for parents and kids alike. It really is hilarious how messy those Leprechauns are when they visit our house in the middle of the night! And some kids love the tradition of breaking the wishbone at Thanksgiving.
- Involve community service done as a family. You can work at a food bank, visit the elderly in senior care facilities, or take a shift ringing the Salvation Army bell. One of my favorite rituals is having friends join me to make pies to bring to a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving.
- Be yearly trips. At the top of the list of traditions my kids love, though it can take an enormous amount of work, is our annual camping trip. The memories of spending the same week at the same lakeside campground every year is worth all the planning and packing to get there.
- Revolve around nature and the seasons. Having a garden, no matter how small, is a way to celebrate the turning of each season. For example, I have a small suburban garden. Each fall when I tear out the tomatoes, I plant fava bean seeds. They grow slowly all winter and are harvested in the spring before planting the tomatoes again. Our annual fava bean pasta dinner each spring is one of my family’s favorite meals! Similarly, every season you might mark your child’s height on the door frame to track their growth, or have them pose for a picture on the first day of school.
Enjoy the fun and meaning of sharing traditions with your family! I find them worth the effort. There is an old play called Fiddler on the Roof in which one of the characters, Tevye, explains why tradition is important to families:
“How do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! … Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!”
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