Using Family Traditions to Build Bonds That Last

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Family traditions come in many forms. They may occur daily or may only happen occasionally. Here's how you can build bonds that last using family tradition!

Around Halloween this year, my daughters (ages 4 and 9) started asking about baking Christmas cookies together! While this may be off-season, my daughters were ready to start planning our “Girls Cookie Baking Day.”

Each year we spend one day baking a variety of cookies to share with family and friends for Christmas and this has quickly become one of their favorite family traditions and something we all look forward to.

Family Traditions

Family traditions can come in many forms and may be things that take very little time all the way to elaborate and time-intensive activities. They may occur daily or they may only happen occasionally or annually. They are more than just routines which are comprised of ordinary, everyday activities that involve little emotion and require no special behavior.

Traditions are the “we always” of a family such as “we always open 1 gift on Christmas Eve” or “we always have family game night once a week.” They create positive emotions and have meaning that is special to the individual family. Some traditions are based on religious beliefs, such as praying before meals. Others come from cultural or ethnic heritage, such as serving black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.

Whether they are passed down from one generation to another or a new creation within a family, they help us have a feeling of belonging and can provide a sense of security in our ever-changing and always busy world. Family traditions can also give us hope and comfort when we encounter challenges or losses in our family and they pass along our cultural or religious heritage.

“With today’s busy world those moments of true connection are harder to come by.”

When you think about starting a new family tradition or which ones from your own family that you want to continue with your children, ask yourself “What are the values I want to pass along to my children?” Family traditions are not only fun but at their core, they should be based around a value you want to promote within the family, whether it’s connecting with each other, serving others and volunteering, being adventurous, appreciating the cultural arts, or being physically healthy and active for example.

Here Are a Few Ideas for Family Traditions:

  • Make the time to eat dinner together. At the dinner table have everyone share their “High” and “Low” for the day. This creates an opportunity to build sharing our feelings and experiences into the daily fabric of a family and many kids look forward to this exchange. Research has demonstrated that sharing family meals together has many positive benefits for kids and teens.
  • Sports offer many opportunities to create traditions and important connections through picking a family favorite team, watching sports together, or playing sports together for example.
  • Your family can adopt a child in need for the holidays by providing gifts for them. Kids love to pick out toys they think other children will enjoy. This teaches empathy and philanthropy.
  • Create a bedtime tradition that fosters connection. Read your child a bedtime story and then have them identify their top 3 positive things about their day. Not only are you promoting literacy skills and bonding, you are helping your child develop a sense of gratitude and the ability to focus on the positive things in their lives.
  • Engage your child in cooking with you. In addition to bonding, it can help children learn measurements, practice following directions, promote healthy eating habits, and build a sense of mastery.
  • Start a family book club. Everyone takes turns selecting a book that the whole family reads. You can discuss it together over a special meal. This will encourage a love of learning, reading skills and bonding.
  • Have a “Daddy/Daughter Date Night” once a month where the dad takes the daughter out to dinner or does some activity that the daughter is interested in. This idea isn’t just for dads and daughters. Mothers and sons can do the same as well!

No matter what traditions your family creates, be sure to listen to your children in a supportive, nonjudgmental manner and validate them while you are interacting. The time you have together while you are eating tacos every Tuesday for Taco Tuesday, saying prayers together, picking apples at the start of fall or any other tradition is a golden opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

With today’s busy world those moments of true connection are harder to come by. Be sure to make the most of them! Creating meaningful traditions that you and your kids enjoy will help create a lasting family bond.

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Amanda McGough, Ph.D.

Dr. McGough enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults. Her special interests include depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, life transitions, behavior problems and parenting skills.

Her approach is strengths based, straightforward, supportive and nonjudgmental. In working with children and adolescents, Dr. McGough involves family members when appropriate to address family dynamics and help parents.

Dr. McGough has specialized training in providing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to address difficulties with controlling emotions.

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