What do you want your children to remember about growing up in your home? What memories would you like your grandchildren to form as they grow older? Perhaps you want your children to remember bringing canned goods to a food bank every Hanukkah or for Christmas Eve. Or maybe you want your grandchildren to cherish the annual spring break trips you took to your family’s lakeside cabin. Passing on customs and traditions to your children is important.
Martin Cohen, associate director of the Marital and Family Therapy Clinic at New York Hospital, finds that children love rituals, whether they involve a cultural celebration at their family church or heart-shaped waffles that they may eat every Valentine’s Day, as he recently told Disney Family.com. It’s up to parents and grandparents to create traditions and customs, Martin said in the Disney interview. Such rituals can give children a sense of security and peace, he said.
Fortunately, starting family rituals and traditions doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Silly isn’t bad
Family traditions can be deeply meaningful or extremely silly. What matters is repetition and anticipation, according to Dr. Harley Rotbart, professor and vice chair of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado. He has commented about family traditions on the hospital’s blog.
Rotbart recommends that parents not let go when they find something that gives their children and grandchildren pleasure. Keep doing it, he recommends, and then make sure to promote the big tradition as the date gets nearer. Rotbart says that when parents and grandparents build up the big event, they’ll stoke excitement in their children and grandchildren.
Finding the “right” traditions
Which events should become family traditions? The answer varies by family. One family might volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food bank every Thanksgiving, and another family might organize a family football game each year before Thanksgiving dinner.
Rotbart suggests, for example, that families celebrate twice the number of birthdays each year, and let each child receive half of a birthday cake when they turn, say, 5-and-a-half or 6-and-a-half and then a full birthday cake when they enter into a whole new year.
Other traditions might depend on the weather. After the first snowfall of the year, your family could go sledding, Rotbart suggests, and to celebrate the first day of summer vacation, your family could take a short road trip to the local frozen-yogurt stand.
Traditions and customs themselves aren’t important. What is important is that your family has events and activities that it enjoys. When you find a meal, holiday activity or seasonal event that every member of your family anticipates and enjoys, you’ve got yourself a new tradition-in-the making to pass down to future generations.