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By Jana Pritchett, Communications Manager -November 11, 2020-

We’re entering the peak season for family traditions. Some that I recall from my childhood include enjoying the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while cooking the turkey and trimmings, sharing reasons to be thankful around the dinner table, playing board games with family after a large holiday meal, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” after attending Christmas Eve services.

Many of our fondest memories are centered on family traditions, activities or patterns of behavior that help us bond with our families. Often these traditions are a link to past and future generations. 

As a young child, I remember my grandparents taking my family to dinner at Helen’s Restaurant on Evansville’s west side every Sunday. They often shared stories from my father’s childhood. This was precious time spent with them, creating special memories I can call up now that they’ve passed on.   

Even though today’s family looks a lot different than families of a generation or two ago, traditions are still an important part of family life and the foundation of strong family ties. This year’s traditions may look a little different due to the risk of gathering with members outside of your household, but it’s still important to fit in simple traditions that help children and teens establish a sense of belonging.   

Denise Witmer offers five reasons to observe family traditions on About.com – Parenting Teens:

  1. Family traditions create good feelings and special moments. They create positive emotions and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s always a sweet moment when an older child remembers a wonderful time shared when they were younger.
  2. Family traditions give every member of the family a stronger sense of belonging. Time spent together strengthens the bonds between family members.
  3. Family traditions help your child or teen with his/her identity. When teens are trying to figure out who they are, it helps to know that they belong. Teens need encouragement to be a part of something bigger when they’re searching and defining their sense of self.
  4. Family traditions help parents impart life skills and family values to their children. Spending more time together helps parents and grandparents model these family values and provides more opportunities to talk about serious issues. Having fun together helps keep the conversation light and encourages kids to open up.
  5. Family traditions offer your child or teen a sense of security. Teens, especially, face some difficult issues in today’s world. Knowing they are secure and have a family to turn to is a powerful tool to use when confronting negative peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, college and career choices, etc. 

Even as your child grows older, family traditions are still important.  Find a way to carry out the rituals that help define your family. Often teens will insist on sticking with tradition even when you find it difficult to fit these moments into your routine.

My grown children, ages 29 and 25, still insist on finding the hidden pickle in the tree to see who will open the first gift on Christmas Eve. As they leave the family nest and everything in their world seems to be changing, busy young adults stay connected through family traditions.

If your existing traditions don’t seem to have the same appeal, create new ones. Do what works for your family. Cooking dinner together, taking a hike at a local park, driving through the countryside to see Christmas lights, or even eating a special food one night a week will create memories that your children will pass on to their own families and remember for a lifetime. 

By Deena Bodine, LCSW – March 10, 2020 –

We live in a society that glamorizes busyness. Our calendars are full, but we may be left feeling less than fulfilled at the end of the day. 

We spend our days busy with work and parenting responsibilities, squeezing in time for maintaining a household requiring chores and upkeep. Often we forget to slow down and enjoy the little moments. We seem to have an expectation that if we work hard now it will allow us to relax and enjoy life later. 

We are fooling ourselves. Life really is about the little things. And in our busy world, those small moments of joy and connection matter. While we may not be able to slow our world or eliminate tasks from our calendar, we can take steps to increase the moments that matter and remind ourselves of what is truly important. 

One way to do this is through family rituals. Developing family rituals can help ensure that we have impactful, shared experiences amid the everyday busyness of our lives. Family rituals and traditions are the basis for creating family culture. Through family culture we encourage nurturing bonds between siblings and parents and develop a sense of belonging, with the bonus of creating a memorable childhood. 

Family rituals can be simple daily, weekly, or seasonal traditions that your family looks forward to. The rituals do not need to be expensive or extravagant.  A bedtime routine of dinner, a bath, and reading a book while snuggling can be a simple and encouraging ritual. Selecting a phrase or gesture (the “I love you” sign is an example) to use in greetings or goodbyes is another no-cost, low time-commitment idea. 

Another ritual idea includes implementing a weekly (or more frequent) family dinner where all family members are encouraged to disconnect from TV, cell phones, and computers and reconnect with one another. This is a great opportunity to incorporate a conversation jar with prompts for all members to help start the discussion. 

Another idea is to start a family gratitude journal where each member adds one thing they appreciate on a daily or weekly basis. Reviewing those entries at the end of the month can be entertaining as well. 

As children grow older, implementing a regular family meeting can provide an outlet to discuss activities and events that need to be included on the family calendar (tests, practices, dance classes, sleepovers, etc.) and can also provide an avenue for conversations about chores, allowances or other tough topics. You can also add seasonal rituals such as apple picking, hiking, decorating cookies, building a snowman, or planting a garden. 

There are so many possibilities for family rituals, and this could be a great opportunity for all members to provide suggestions (i.e. each member chooses an activity for “Sunday Funday”). The important part of the ritual is less about what you are doing and more about doing it together as a family. 

For more family ritual ideas, please visit the Youth First Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YouthFirstInc/  to find suggestions and add your family’s favorite.

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – Nov. 12, 2019

With Fall officially here and Halloween already past, Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. It is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and to participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year, enhancing family involvement and strengthening family bonds. My family has planned fall camping trips two years in a row now; perhaps this will turn into a yearly tradition for us.

Another tradition in my family that I look forward to every year is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time with much laughter is always had. Now that my children are older, they are officially part of the family baking team as well.

Families that share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security to their families, especially the children involved. Children love routine and consistency; a family tradition provides this year after year. It also helps the children manage the 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 or changed to accommodate each 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, their tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

In recent years my family has added time to make video calls with our relatives after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We call our family members who may not have been able to travel in for the holidays or are stationed out of state or overseas due to military commitments. It gives us all a chance to stay connected as a family, even if we physically can’t be together for the holiday.

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

My family enjoys baking together to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; perhaps your family opts to take a walk every Christmas morning or enjoys exchanging white elephant gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you want to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Reading a book, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” aloud prior to opening Christmas gifts
  • Weekly or monthly family movie nights
  • Yearly family talent shows
  • Creating crafts together
  • Making candy or preparing meals together
  • Annual family camping trips
  • Family sporting tournaments with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family tradition is 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.

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.