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By Kacie Shipman, LSW, Nov. 21, 2018 –

The holidays are coming, and many people have special family traditions they enjoy observing this time of year.

Family traditions hold values and beliefs that are passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions help children feel a sense of belonging and consistency in their family.

Identity is often found in the traditions and values of our families. These traditions can be very simple, such as eating dinner together at the table or watching a movie together every Friday. They are activities that take place in a consistent manner and show the importance of togetherness.

Family traditions help bond families together, as they link generations. Children that have traditions implemented into their lives are found to be more resilient and well-adjusted. Traditions can teach children values about religion, heritage, and culture.

In an article by Bill and Kate McKay titled “Fatherhood, Relationships, and Families,” they state, “Researchers have found that family traditions and rituals can provide comfort and security to children, even if a main source of their stress originates from within the family itself.”

It is also important to keep things positive during the time of bonding. Be intentional in setting aside time, such as during dinner, to keep the conversation positive and upbeat. The greatest source of bonding occurs during times of high emotions.

Establishing a family game night is a great opportunity for many laughs and positive interactions (as well as stress relief). By establishing routines, you are showing your children that quality time with them is important.

Consistency of family traditions is especially important during challenging times, such as moving to a new area, parents’ divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Grief is often a time when families bond through rituals, such as taking flowers or special items to the burial grounds or planting trees or flowers in memory of their loved one. Creating a traditional way to remember those who have passed away can help in the grieving process.

Volunteering is another tradition that many families take part in together. Working together opens up important conversations regarding personal views on helping others. It also provides children with important life lessons, while spending important time bonding as a family. Identifying your values and what is important to you can be a good start in brainstorming ideas for new traditions to implement into your family.

Family traditions often occur during holidays and special events, but they can be implemented into routines throughout the year. Even if your children are grudgingly participating in your traditional events, they will someday appreciate the effort that was put into them.

You are giving your children so much more than the activity itself; you are passing on family values and life lessons. When you are observing your family traditions this year, remember there is a deeper meaning you are instilling in and providing for your children.

By Sarah Postlewaite, Courier & Press, March 17, 2017 –

It’s no secret that all families are busy.  Besides homework, many families have music or sports practices, performances, club meetings and games.  In most families, one or both parents work while the kids and the parents are involved in various activities.

Our days and years go by so fast we hardly have time to breathe.  When we look back at the week, sometimes it’s hard to remember if the whole family spent any quality time together.

I grew up in a large, busy family, but I do remember having lots of quality time with both my parents and siblings.  My parents placed importance on family rituals. These rituals really shaped my childhood and were so ingrained in me that I now try to make them central to my own family.

Family rituals are important to the health and well-being of today’s families trying to juggle the busy demands of work, home and social lives.  Family rituals are powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition.

One of the more common rituals is family dinnertime, sharing a family meal together one or more nights a week with no phones, electronics or other distractions.  Bedtime is also a great time to start a ritual, especially with smaller children.  Parents and children can end the night reading books, telling stories or sharing one good thing that happened that day.

Another option is choosing a day of the week that is less busy for your family and making that a “family day/night.”  When the weather is nice our family takes a Sunday night walk together or discusses the upcoming week over a small family meeting.

Of course there are always holidays and birthdays built in throughout the year that can be celebrated and made into special events with little money spent.

Whatever you choose to do with your family, just make sure the rituals created are tailored to the needs, attitudes, personalities and limitations of your family.  Try to work within the framework of your “real” life as much as possible.  Creating something that is tailored to your family life will help these rituals stay consistent, enjoyable and lasting.

Family rituals also give children a sense of belonging and validation.  They promote a sense of identity in the child, which will later serve as a basis for adult development.

The importance of recurring family rituals, from the simple decision to enforce an attendance policy for evening meals to more complex family gatherings cannot be over emphasized.

If we look at the possibilities in ritualizing some of our current family experiences, we begin to see ourselves, our families and our time with them in a different light.  Through the use of rituals we can help ourselves find extra time with our family that we may be missing.

Fireworks

By Lisa Cossey, MSW, Courier & Press, June 14, 2016 –

With the Fourth of July around the corner, it is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year. Every July Fourth, my family hosts a party filled with food, games and fireworks.

Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family gathers and spends an evening going to haunted houses. Perhaps it is not a typical family tradition, but it is one their family looks forward to and has enjoyed for years. One of my good friends and her family observe the less frightful tradition of camping on Halloween weekend each year.

Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time is always had by all, and now that my own children are getting older, they are involved in the baking as well.

Families which share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security, especially for the children involved. Children love routine and consistency, something a family tradition provides year after year. It also helps children manage any losses or changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well-being and can also add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained.

As children grow and mature, traditions can also be altered to accommodate the family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, the tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or costly. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays. You can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year.

If baking together for the holidays is not your favorite activity, perhaps your family would enjoy taking a walk every Christmas morning or exchanging “white elephant” gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you choose to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Reading a book aloud, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” before opening Christmas gifts
  • Having a weekly or monthly family movie night
  • Holding a yearly family talent show
  • Creating crafts together
  • Making candy, baking or preparing meals together
  • Taking an annual vacation or family camping trip
  • Having your own family sporting tournament, with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family’s traditions are or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.