When my oldest was one and a half, I questioned the idea of decorating the house for Christmas. In my mind, it was going to be more trouble than it was worth. As he had recently become mobile, he was into everything. I pictured the Christmas tree being pulled over and ornaments flying across the room. As I shared my concerns with a colleague, she shared how important it was to begin establishing traditions within our family as this served as a basis for his earliest memories.
Traditions are behaviors, activities or events in which you participate again and again. These activities are intentionally planned with a specific purpose in mind (McKay et al., 2013). Traditions provide continuity from year to year and teach respect for the past while building a sense of community for the present. There are many different categories of traditions that can be integrated into the lives of our children:
- Daily Traditions: These are traditions that happen naturally within a family structure and may include family dinners or bedtime routines. At school, some teachers end the day with a daily tradition in which students are asked to give a high-five, handshake or hug before leaving for the day.
- Weekly Traditions: In our family, Saturday mornings are reserved for a special family breakfast. We might cook French toast together as a family or head out to a special restaurant to spend the morning together. Other possible weekly traditions include game night, pizza and movie night, or even watching Saturday night football together as a family.
- Seasonal Traditions: These are the most common type of tradition thought of when the word is mentioned. These are special activities done at a particular time of year. These may include serving together as a family during the holiday season or special time spent preparing for the holidays.
- Life Change Traditions: These traditions celebrate major life events. For example, in the Lower School, fourth graders walk across the Crossover Bridge to the Middle School following the End-of-Year Awards Assembly. In families, many parents take “First Day of School” pictures to mark the start of a new adventure.
Traditions are foundational in creating a positive culture, whether this be in the home or at school. Traditions provide children with a sense of identity and insight into their family’s history. In addition, traditions strengthen the bonds within families and offer a sense of security. (McKay et al., 2013) When chaos arises, the stability of daily or weekly traditions is critical. Finally, traditions transmit important values across generations. If family meals are honored as an important family event, children are learning the importance of relationships and quality time. Family community service activities transmit the importance of service to those less fortunate.
Traditions do not need to be complex or overly involved. A family hike on Thanksgiving morning or a nightly reading ritual are perfect examples of simple family traditions. My sister and her family have to split Christmas between the two grandparents’ homes. On Christmas morning, as they are transitioning to the other set of grandparents, they take a “sleigh ride”, which involves bundling up in warm clothes and blankets and riding with all of the windows down. Although this simple activity does not require much forward thinking, it results in a special memory for her girls.
In my young family, I want to create an environment that is memorable, secure and strong. Establishing traditions will not only increase the joy we experience as a family but also the connectivity among us. There are times when it may be easier to maintain the regular routine; however, as my colleague reminded me, it is important for me to create traditions as we shape and deepen the bonds within our family.
References: McKay, B. & McKay, K. (2013). Creating a positive family culture: The importance of establishing family traditions. Retrieved from: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/10/09/creating-a-positive-family-culture-the-importance-of-establishing-family-traditions/.