Family Traditions Build Strong Families
Traditions are an important part of family culture. The things we do together routinely, over and over, become our family’s traditions and define our family’s unique family culture. Family traditions can be big (the Thanksgiving meal or family reunions) and traditions can be small (saying grace before dinner or sharing a hug when parting).
Big or small, family traditions help define a family’s culture and help strengthen families in a number of important ways.
What is a tradition?
What do we mean when we say ‘tradition’? Webster’s dictionary defines ‘tradition’ as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom).”
Simply put, a tradition is something that is done the same way over time. The holidays we celebrate and the way we celebrate them are often traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Following traditions that have been passed down from previous generations contribute to a family’s unique family culture.
What is ‘family culture’?
Culture is the way a group of people collectively thinks, feels, and acts. We often think of countries, or regions of a country, as having a culture that is unique and different from the country or region next door.
But families also have a culture, whether they intentionally set out to create one or not. The things you do as a family, the values you hold and demonstrate to your children by your actions, and the daily, weekly, or annual rituals of family members all form a family culture that is unique to your family.
Why are traditions important?
Those habits we form together in a family can provide each family member with connection, comfort, and the security of being part of a like-minded group. Shared activities strengthen the connections between family members and provide a source of identity and a feeling of belonging.
Traditions, and family culture, are also a way to pass along the values you hold dear to your children.
When we form family traditions, we create opportunities to build connections within our family. The things we do together regularly as a family- daily, weekly, or even annually – give children a sense of belonging.
Daily traditions are small things you do each day to reinforce your family values and connection. A high-five as kids leave for the school bus. Or the commitment to sit and eat a meal together around the dinner table.
Weekly traditions can also be small activities you do together as a group to build strong, supportive relationships. Family game night on the weekend. Attending religious services together each week.
Life Change traditions celebrate family milestones – the beginning and end of a school year, birthdays, graduations, and weddings.
For more on the importance of family traditions – and how to create them – check out Creating a Positive Family Culture.
In our family, we have a simple birthday tradition that involves hanging streamers from the chandelier over the dining room table. The streamers are hung after the birthday person has gone to bed the night before their birthday. The next morning the whole family is part of the birthday excitement, seeing the table festooned with birthday streamers. The streamers stay up all day, and sometimes beyond the day if I forget to take them down!
Another family tradition at our house is the advent wreath in the center of the dining room table right after Thanksgiving each year. Each Sunday in Advent, we read from a script that we brought home from church in 1984. It’s looking pretty tattered at this point, but it’s a family tradition we all cherish.
One of our more recently implemented family traditions was started by my 17-year-old, who a few years back began baking massive amounts of cookies throughout the month of December. By Christmas, we have platters of cookies, in an assortment of epic proportions.
This goes to show that family traditions, while enduring and often passed down from generation to generation, can also be begun, or even stopped, at any time.
Family traditions can also be implemented at any time. And can begin spontaneously. Our streamer tradition started that way. The first time I hung them, it wasn’t in a conscious effort to start a tradition. But when the next birthday rolled around, someone asked where the streamers were. And a tradition was born.
What family traditions define your family’s culture?
Family traditions work together with a family’s values and norms to form a family’s culture. They provide family members with a healthy sense of belonging, security, and connection – contributing to everyone’s well-being and healthy emotional development.