Traditions are an important part of family life. They are a foundation on which a family can build trust and identity, they bring families together in a common bond, they offer security and connection during tough times, and they provide opportunities to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
So where do you start once you’ve decided to bring more traditions into your family? Here are four easy steps to get you started.
1. Start small. Traditions don’t have to be big and elaborate. In fact some of the most memorable traditions are the most simple. Choose something that you already do on a regular basis and find a way to spice it up a bit and add a little more punch to it. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Bedtime rituals:
- Read a bedtime story. While this may be standard for young ones, even older children will enjoy a chapter or two from a book.
- Develop a “good-night” routine. Give your child a light backrub or do a “tickle monster” followed by a kiss and hug. Find a saying to repeat every night such as I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be (Love You Forever, 1986, Munsch).
- Dinnertime rituals:
- Have a “Formal night.” When my older children were younger, we had a nice dinner every Sunday. I brought out the good china and napkins and used it as a chance to teach them about manners (which sometimes backfired, but made for some great memories!)
- Make one night a week a “theme night.” Prepare meals from different countries, like Mexican night or Italian night, or pick a color and prepare only foods of that color.
- Do the same thing on one night every week. Make Friday night pizza and a movie night, or always serve ice cream sundaes every Sunday.
- Birthday traditions:
- Have the “Birthday Fairy” visit. The night before a child’s birthday, decorate his or her room with crepe paper and balloons. If you have a light sleeper, decorate the hallway right outside the bedroom door.
- Make up a birthday song. Invent your own special version of Happy Birthday. Put different words to the tune or, if your are extra creative, write your own song just for your family.
- Spontaneous traditions: Be aware of things your family seems to particularly enjoy, as some traditions develop spontaneously. For example, one family I know found that they enjoyed gathering on their back porch to watch a beautiful sunset. This was something that just happened over time and they now regard it as a tradition that has brought them closer together.
2. Involve the family. Ask your children if there are things your family has done that they particularly enjoyed. Ask them what things they would like to do together as a family or as parent and child. Really listen to what they say and be willing to try some of their ideas, even if they don’t appeal to you at first. If your kids know they will be taken seriously, and that at some point their suggestions will be implemented, they will be more willing to try some of the things other family members want to try. Their confidence will increase when you show that their opinions are valued, and they will immediately feel more connected to the family even before the tradition takes hold.
3. Be flexible. When you find something you want to try, don’t make a big announcement about what you are doing. Introduce it as something you are just trying out, and then do it again at the determined interval. Watch the response and change things up as necessary. Reevaluate the tradition periodically, and if the time is right, don’t be afraid to bring an end to the ritual. Things change over time. People grow up, they move, new family members are added. Traditions will require regular revamping and re-creation. Part of the idea of traditions is that they are fun, so if what you are doing becomes a burden, end it. Something new might be right around the corner.
4. Have fun! Don’t forget the reason behind the tradition. You want to bring the family closer and provide a feeling of belonging. You want your family to feel connected and secure. Enjoy what you are doing. Let mistakes happen and make that part of the fun. Probably my favorite tradition that I know of is a friend of mine whose family invented their own holiday. Every year on the same day they celebrate with traditional food, costumes and colors. They even have a name for their holiday. Now that’s something their kids will remember!
So now you have everything you need to get started with your own family traditions. What are you waiting for? Get going today!
What memories are you going to create?!