With the festive season in full swing, one simply can’t help but get immersed in a plethora of family traditions. Once, the centre of all family values, our busy lives and hectic schedules might have taken away the spotlight from some traditions that were once family favourites. Traditions can be defined as activities and ideas that are celebrated repeatedly, that are unique and special to each unit, passed down generations or created in families These can also be in relation to a particular holiday, quite simply referred ,to as Holiday traditions.
While routines are great and crucial to the smooth running of a household, it’s these special traditions that create a sense of belonging, identity and of course make wonderful precious memories for children. These traditions are what children can look forward to with certainty while also strengthening bonds in the family. While routines can help children understand daily activities, expectations and timelines, traditions bring excitement and special significance to certain events or celebrations. In his book “No Regrets Parenting” which is no secret a favourite parenting book of mine, Dr Harley Rotbart defines traditions as conditioned reflexes, drawing comparison to Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning. To put it in simpler terms, he explains how establishing traditions that children can count on, trigger happy anticipation and leave lasting, cherished memories.
Traditions can be celebrated annually, weekly or on special occasions and sometimes it is a simple tradition that can turn a mundane day into something memorable and enjoyable. Looking back at my own childhood, I vividly and fondly recall baking cakes with mum on rainy Sunday evenings, long drives to the beach with my dad on Saturdays and then of course the much anticipated yearly traditions of making Christmas goodies with the whole family. No surprise then, I’ve passed on some of these to my own children.
While some might have been passed down, there are no rules about starting your own traditions. You need not limit yourself to the big and obvious events like a birthday or anniversary but can carve your own weekly traditions or celebrate the little things in life. How about ice cream on the first day of school or having a dance party with your kids on weekends? Give it some thought and you can make your own traditions, that you feel comfortable keeping up to (because children eagerly look forward to these) and of course, those that centre around your family interests. Traditions become easier to follow when they involve all members of the family. They can be built around a certain occasion, like a birthday (making their favourite breakfast to begin their day) or a holiday like Christmas (putting up the tree together) or mid-week to break the monotony of the week (Pizzas on Friday nights). Traditions can be made unique to your family by adapting popular ones to suit your family’s schedules and resources.
Again, Dr Rotbat talks of two important aspects of establishing traditions; repetition and anticipation. When followed on a regular and predictable basis they gradually become a part of your family. It is important to get everyone in the family to participate as only then can it nurture a deeper bond. Be open to the idea of trying new and old traditions and if they seem difficult to follow or simply don’t work for your family, do not hesitate to discontinue them. It can be overwhelming to start one too many and struggle to keep up with them. Remember the goal of traditions is to help the family bond and enjoy, not build stress and anxiety. So start small and you can improvise as you go. Sprinkling them through the year can definitely leave your children happy and excited.
In her book 101 Positive Principles of Discipline, Katherine Kersey talks about the “Establish Traditions Principle” and goes on to say that establishing traditions that children can anticipate, provide them with fond memories and feelings of belonging and security. Counting on my own experiences as a child and now as a parent, I couldn’t agree more.
Traditions do take a certain amount of planning and commitment, so it is important to adapt them to your family’s needs and participation. They don’t need to be expensive or over the top. Some of the best traditions can be free and effort-free (Family movie night on Fridays, video calls with grandparents on Sunday mornings ). Think of traditions that encourage family participation and as your children grow older, you can adapt them to suit their evolving interests. Traditions can make fond memories that children will carry with them much beyond their growing years and keep them coming home well past into their adulthood. What’s not to love about that?