The power of making traditions of any kind in your family
Ever heard someone say, “when I was a kid, we did this thing….” and then explain to you some lovely family tradition? Or an activity they did with a special person in their family?
Our brain makes meaning through patterns. When we sleep at night, our brain is actually defragmenting and organizing our days, weeks, and months into categories that can be accessed later in our long term memory.
One of the most satisfying and comforting thoughts of our childhood is to have those “things” that help define us.
My recommendation is to have a thing that:
1) the whole family does
2) you do with each specific child
3) is unique
4) that you do consistently enough that it becomes part of their happy childhood memories
Here are some examples.
A yearly vacation to the same location with special traditions.
A special holiday tradition you do that makes the kids giggle or eye roll (depending on their age) Something goofy or out of the norm is always more memorable: maybe really dress up to the extreme for St. Patty’s day, or dress up the turkey for Thanksgiving, or celebrate backwards day, January 31st by talking in backwards sentences or walking backward to the car, or pi Day, March 14th by making or buying several kinds of pie and seeing who can say the most numbers of Pi.
A weekly meal together when you ask *would-you-rather” questions” or quiz each other on riddles.
A weekly family night where each member is responsible for organizing and planning the event one at a time.
“Love time” – that one on one time you have with each child sometime during the day (before bedtime works great for many people)
A special handshake or butterfly kisses or Eskimo kiss or some other special unique way to connect. (This is especially helpful if your child’s primary love language is physical touch)
Weekly devotions, where you play games and talk about Jesus for the little ones and when they are older, each person shares some thoughts on what he or she read in the Bible that week and its impact.
Talk to your spouse about what feels right for your family. Talk about traditions you both had as kids and what feelings are associated with those. Remember that if one or both of you did not have significant “things” or have negative emotions around those “things” it may be harder to buy into this idea for one of you. It’s ok. This can be a “mom” thing or a “dad” thing. It can even be a thing one of your kids does and you encourage them to keep it up as a family tradition. We don’t want to feel the pressure to find the perfect family tradition, just keep it in the back of your mind that the more consistent you can be, the more that long term memory is storing it away as special.
And please, don’t get caught up in what others do or tell you to do. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read how having dinner together as a family is vital for good parenting. Well… if that is the case, I failed. I just don’t love sit down dinners. I don’t like cooking. I don’t like the expectation of everyone having this great family moment every evening. I also don’t like the fact that as a kid, I did not particularly enjoy the sit down dinner. It never felt meaningful, just what you were supposed to do. So we abandoned the sit down dinner (yes, we tried it, I had to at least try.) To be honest, I’m so glad we did. We found other ways to connect in what felt very meaningful and I stopped feeling guilty and frustrated that we were all in the same place at the same moment when the food was ready. But if sit-down evening meals are your thing… please enjoy it!
The real important thing is to find – your thing. Something that feels like fun to you and you stick with it.