Are family traditions too hard to create?
Or do we just not recognize every day activities as a “family tradition”? For some reason, we seem to think that family traditions require planning, fanfare, and must be a Big Deal. Family traditions, apparently, are to families what the Grand Gesture is to a romantic relationship. (and if you don’t know what a Grand Gesture is, go watch a Hallmark movie.) But it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s easy to create a family tradition as part of your daily routine.
Family traditions aren’t what the movies and media would like you to believe. They don’t have to be this Big Deal. They can be the simple, every day activities you do anyway, except that you do them in such a way as to make them special.
How do you create a family tradition?
There are three key elements of a family tradition: it’s regular, it’s tied to an event of some kind, and the benefits of family traditions are there. So first, family traditions have to happen on a fairly regular basis. If they aren’t repeated, they aren’t a tradition. By regular here, I mean at least once a year! But you can create family traditions that happen weekly, even daily. And those traditions will reap the benefits far more than a once-a-year Big Deal ever could.
Family traditions are usually tied to an event. The yearly traditions usually surround yearly holidays — Christmas, birthdays, etc. But if you want a daily family tradition, look for those natural daily events that happen. Family traditions are great for helping with transitions. So try creating ones for at bedtime, or ending the school or work day.
Use food to create a family tradition in your daily routine.
Food makes a great family tradition. For the last couple of years, my girls have done softball. After softball practice, we made it a habit to grab ice cream cones at McDonald’s or a local ice cream shop (depending on how much money I had at the time.) It became a .. family tradition.
Maybe your family tradition could be that every night you have dinner as a family! You put the screens away, and everyone helps to make, serve, eat and clean up dinner, together. Or maybe it’s as simple as an after school snack, that you enjoy together, with a conversation.
Use movies to create a family tradition.
There’s nothing like a family movie night! Fresh popcorn, blankets and dimmed lights, snuggles and giggles as you enjoy the story together — movies are perfect family tradition material.
It doesn’t have to be a feature film. Lately, my oldest and I have been enjoying a television show together. We will watch it together while folding laundry, or I’m marking school work, after the younger kids are in bed. It’s something special, just for us! It’s something that has given us conversation, even when previous conversations haven’t gone well. And it brings us back together, which is so important during these teen years.
Use stories to create a family tradition daily.
Similar to movies, reading stories together can be an amazingly simple but effective family tradition. Whether it’s a quiet rainy-day book reading afternoon, or a daily read aloud, or maybe just a bedtime story as part of your bedtime routine, stories can be special.
Our family tradition is a read aloud, whenever I have the moments (and voice!) to read. I’ve used this family tradition to share my favorite novels and series from my childhood. Not only do I get to enjoy the stories again, I get to see them fresh through the eyes of my children. And we get the bonding time of spending time together. My kids constantly beg for another chapter, and not just because the story is a good one.
Use affection as part of your family traditions.
Who can resist a baby’s sticky sweet kiss? Even if you aren’t the kind of person who likes physical affection, affection in all its forms can be used to create a family tradition. They can happen naturally. Affectionate nicknames at certain times of the day or in special situations make great family traditions. Or good morning hugs and kisses when you first greet each other.
One of my kids’ favorite family traditions is the hug goodbye. We don’t just wave bye and leave, but we hug before we’re separated. Sometimes, it’s even slightly annoying (at least for me, when I’m in a hurry), but my kids insist on hugs before I leave them with a babysitter, or they leave me for a weekend visit with their dad. It reinforces our bond and reminds them that we’ll be back together soon.
Family traditions don’t have to be Big Deals.
You can use the smallest, simplest things to create a family tradition as part of your daily routines. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Family traditions happen when they are regular, repeated markings of events and transitions. So look for the daily transitions, and see what you can add. And you may find you have more family traditions than you realize.