I’ve noticed that when I mention the words “family tradition” it seems to make my friends groan and roll their eyes yet they always laugh and are willing to share funny stories with me about their family holiday memories. I love that. I love thinking back to the things I did with my family when I was young too, in fact I store those memories close to my heart and treasure the fact that I’ll always have them.
Looking back on my family traditions I can safely say that whatever the activity was, it was rarely as meaningful as the simple fact that we were doing it together. Was trudging through the snow with various appendages on the verge of frostbite hunting for a defenseless pine tree really all that fun? On paper it wasn’t but spending time with my parents and siblings and all of the memories it created was. Spending time together as a family is important and when there are traditions to look forward to it helps a family stay connected.
The new year is a perfect time to create or re-establish traditions for your own family. It may feel strange developing your new traditions at first but think of it as testing your wings. Not every tradition you remember fondly from your own childhood was a perfect success from the get go. Memorable and/or picture perfect traditions don’t just materialize out of thin air. It can take a bit refining but keep in mind that traditions can change and evolve to meet the needs of your family as it grows.
I’m now a mom to a 2 year old and a 6 month old and this is our first time spending the holiday season as a family of four. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to start creating traditions for my own family but it made me think – how do I start?
Here are a few tips for creating or re-establishing family traditions:
1) Have a family meeting and write down all of the things you consider to be traditions your family participates in (if your kids are really young just you and your partner can do this). Take a look at the list and decide which traditions you want to keep and the ones you want to ditch. Just because you used to do something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it – especially if no one enjoys doing it. This creates space for new traditions to be created.
2) Take a good look at the stage your family is in and brainstorm with your partner a few fun activities to try. Maybe it’s ice skating on New Year’s Eve, or playing a board game or eating chocolate fondue. Let your kids add in their suggestions too.
3) As a family, pick three new things to try out this year and commit to doing them. Traditions have to start with an effort to find what’s right for your family and eventually they can transform into the kind of family event that you all look forward to.
The best evidence you can find of a firmly entrenched family tradition is when your kids start to get excited about a particular time of year because they know that it means you’ll be doing activities x and y. Is it the activity, sharing the activity, or just doing something that is a “family thing” that gets them excited? In the moment you’ll probably have kids respond that it’s the activity that’s fun but with time they’ll look back on whatever traditions you establish with the same fondness you hopefully have of the traditions you enjoyed growing up.