I grew up in poverty. We did not take beach vacations. I never saw Disney World or even so much as visited a museum. But every summer, we took a one-day trip to a rinky-dink amusement park in the hills of West Virginia. It was our “big trip” of the season, and I was always incredibly excited for it. As a child, the only thing that mattered to me was spending time as a family having fun. Recently, I took my own children to that same tiny park, and so the tradition lives on.
What’s the Purpose of Traditions?
Family traditions don’t have to be big to be bold. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest repeated gestures to the grand celebrations. Any activity that your family does ritualistically can be considered tradition. Often, they start rather unintentionally as families naturally discover what they enjoy doing together and repeat those experiences.
Other traditions are set with intention, either because they’ve been passed down from generation to generation or because we want to purposefully create a sense of togetherness and unity within our family systems.
They can be used to create structure and a sense of safety, two things that all children benefit from. Traditions can reflect your family values, such as donating toys or volunteering regularly. Or they can ensure that we slow down and spend time together in an otherwise busy and buzzing life. They are a way of staying connected.
Family traditions hold a special place in our hearts, creating fond memories that are borne out of every board game, road trip, or celebration. They give us a shared identity and strengthen our bonds. They nurture feelings of belonging, and there is even some suggestion that family traditions promote better emotional adjustment.
Dr. Steven Wolin, a psychiatrist at the George Washington University, says, “If you grow up in a family with strong rituals, you’re more likely to be resilient as an adult. We know that either way, there are strong benefits to feeling emotionally connected to our loved ones.
The Culture of Busyness is Wreaking Havoc on Family Systems
We are living in times where parents are working longer, kids are schooling longer, and everyone is glued to their devices when not working or schooling. It seems that every moment of every day is being gobbled up and we are just too distracted to notice. Perhaps we need traditions and rituals now more than ever.
Traditions have the power to bring us back to one another. Whether that is around the campfire or the Monopoly board, we are offered a chance to come face to face with those we love. In doing so, we are reminded that time is short and that children do not stay children for long. Traditions are a way for us to celebrate one another and this wild and beautiful life.
10 Traditions to Start with Your Family
1. Take a picture in the same place every year on the first day of school. You won’t believe how much bigger they will look than last year.
2. Go on monthly Mommy/Daddy dates. These are a great way for children to get the one-on-one attention they crave.
3. Create a time capsule every year, either on a child’s birthday or perhaps New Year’s Eve.
4. Create a family fight song. You can use a well-known tune as a foundation and change the words to suit your family. Use it as a cheer when a family member accomplishes something or as a pep rally to help pump someone up for a big day!
5. Create seasonal traditions like visiting a pumpkin patch every fall and snow tubing every winter.
6. Keep a weekly game night, movie night, or some other family activity that you enjoy.
7. Make up handshakes, code words, or special symbols that only have meaning for your family.
8. Have the same breakfast on a holiday morning, such as pancakes with sprinkles on Christmas or shaped into a bunny face on Easter.
9. Hold weekly family meetings and ask everyone to share one thing they appreciate about a member of the family.
10. Start a tradition where everyone donates an unwanted item every time they receive a new gift. This helps keep down clutter and teaches responsibility!