Family Traditions: 3 ways that family traditions can help us cope with covid-19 times and build resilient families.

Family traditions are rituals that we participate in together with our words and actions. My family has many traditions: Some are passed down from previous generations and some have been newly created with my own children. Some are silly or just plain ridiculous and others are so ingrained, they feel like the “right thing to do” in certain circumstances. You might ask, “what is the point of continuing these rituals? Does it matter if we have chocolate chip pancakes to celebrate birthday mornings? Or does it matter if we hold birthday presents over someone’s head and ask, “Heavy, heavy, hang over your head.  What are you going to do with it? ”  My answer is yes, it matters a great deal. Here are some reasons why I believe so. 


Who are we? 

Family traditions create the story of our family. This narrative links us to older generations and to those who have already passed. It allows our children to gain some knowledge of relatives that they may never have met. This link helps them develop a sense of the many ups and downs your family has gone through and the events and circumstances that have helped to shape who they are today. My children never had the opportunity to meet my father, but every year on his birthday we make root beer floats, one of his favorite treats, and celebrate him. At times it has just been just me and my children and at other times it has involved extended family or friends who we happened to have plans with that day. This ritual leads to stories about my dad and discussions about his personality, quirks, and traits that my children share with him. Not only do they get a sense of who he was, but it also helps them feel more deeply connected to themselves. Research has shown that children who grow up in families with rich traditions tend to have a better self-concept and less anxiety, less depression, and less behavioral difficulties. Knowing their roots, helps children develop their own identities. For example, through hearing family stories, a child may have a belief such as, “I come from a stubborn family and that is how my great- grandparents were able to be successful. When times were hard, they didn’t give up. My family doesn’t quit and that is why I am sticking with learning to play this instrument. Even though it is really hard, I am not a quitter.” 


What does my family care about?

Another reason why family traditions are important is because they give parents a way to share their values with their children. For example, if quality time with people you care about is important to your family, setting aside time to spend together as a family, lets your children know that you value spending time with them and that they are important to you. This is especially important in today’s busy world where it can feel like we are moving from activity to activity and have less time to connect on a deep level with the people around us. This doesn’t have to involve a lot of effort. It might be a weekly movie night, Sunday football or Taco Tuesday. It creates a known and anticipated time to be together. Children often look forward to these rituals, even if on the surface they are complaining about them. Family traditions can also help children learn what you value in the broader world as well.  For example, participating in an annual food drive may reflect a family value of helping people in need, helping at a pet adoption event can show that you value the lives of animals or helping with a park clean-up can show you value taking care of the Earth. 


How will we get through this?

Lastly, family traditions create a sense of stability in times of stress and transition. When the world seems uncertain or our family is in a time of crisis, rituals can provide a sense of comfort and security for children and adults too. They remind us that our families have been through difficult times before and have endured. Uncertain times often lead to increased anxiety and a sense of confusion. Rituals help us know what to do next. For example, continuing the steps in your child’s bedtime routine can help children feel more settled and provide a sense of normalcy. Putting up holiday decorations, even if others are unable to join you to celebrate, provides a marker of time that is important in establishing your child’s life history. It also shows that even in times of change, some things can stay the same. This can help children realize that life goes on, even when things are difficult. 


What if I don’t have any family traditions? 

The great news is that you can start a new tradition at any time.  Remember, the goal of a tradition is to create a shared experience with people you care about. This may be to instill a greater value or just to create meaningful memories together


Some tips for creating a family tradition: 1) Consider having a beginning to the ritual. This could be a verbal cue, such as saying “will everyone raise your glass” when you make a toast or non-verbal cues such as turning out the lights when it is time to sing Happy Birthday. 2) Define the purpose of the ritual. Some examples are to spend quality time together, increase the family fun factor, pass on family recipes, honor loved ones who have passed, share favorite family stories, or celebrate milestones. 


Some possible new traditions:

  • Have an “Unbirthday” party for family members about 6-months after their actual birthday. It might be that they get to choose their favorite meal that day or get a special treat. 
  • Report card reward night of doing a fun activity to celebrate the effort your child has put in
  • Monthly family or neighborhood potluck
  • Harvest celebration bonfire
  • Sundaes on Sunday
  • End of year scrapbook making night
  • Family book club – audio books are great for car trips!
  • Celebrate the birthday of someone famous or important. For example: Dr Seuss Day – Green Eggs and Ham and rhymes all around
  • “Say yes day.” Let kids plan the day including activities and meals. 
  • Singing dinner day. No talking just singing your conversations in different musical styles.
  • Still at a loss? Look up national holidays for some inspiration. Some include National Noodle Day, Flashlight Day, and Talk Like a Pirate Day. In fact, today is Nobel Prize Day and International Animal Rights Day.  Have fun! 

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*