Traditions can provide the glue that brings closeness and unity to a family. They offer your family a source of strength, stability, identity, and faith that can help balance change and uncertainty in a complex world. You can draw on the traditions of the family you grew up in, borrow from your partner’s family, and create brand-new traditions that reflect the family you are forming.
Traditions can be simple daily routines, such as eating dinner together or hosting elaborate annual events like decorating a Christmas tree. You can create a sentimental feeling with the familiarity and regularity of baking the same heart-shaped cookies at every Valentine’s Day or using a special decoration every Halloween.
Customs like these are comforting and grounding for life. Your baby derives a sense of security and satisfied expectations from daily rituals. Later, as a toddler, he can share in the preparation, planning, and excitement of periodic and seasonal traditions.
When [my daughters] Mari and Emi were little, even though we were on a tight budget, we created a simple weekly tradition that was unique to our family. Every Friday, we went together to a local bakery for their breakfast special of English muffins, grits, eggs, and fruit. We even made up a song about it and sang it on the way to the bakery. The Rollin’ Pin Bakery is long gone now, and my babies are grown women, but the feelings associated with this and other simple family traditions still connect us as a family.
Traditions also provide an anchor during tough times. When he gathers with family and friends on special occasions, your child senses his belonging to something larger than his own small world. You can even provide him with generational and historical continuity by repeating family traditions from your own childhood or that of your parents. This practice helps your child feel safe and held at times when he struggles or feels alone, both now and in the future.
The rituals, customs, and celebrations that you create with your family reflect your priorities and values. Your child will feel connected to these experiences and perhaps pass them along to his children.
Here are some suggestions for creating family traditions:
- Reflect on the family rituals and celebrations that you enjoyed as a child. Decide which ones you would like to repeat with your child.
- Blend the cultures of both parents. Whether you come from different cultural backgrounds or grew up in the same community, you each have a unique history of family traditions.
- Take note of your daily or weekly routines. These can include taking walks in the park, singing in the car, sharing stories, playing games, having quiet or meditation time, eating dinner together, reading a book at bedtime, weekly cleaning, making pancakes on Saturday mornings, having pizza-and-movie night, or having get-togethers with relatives. These routine activities become family traditions for your child.
- Post a family calendar marked with events, such as family reunions, vacations, birthdays, holiday celebrations, and neighborhood picnics.
- Make a list of family holidays that reflect your religious or spiritual beliefs and have purpose and meaning for you. In addition, you can always create holidays that are unique to your family or borrow holidays from other cultures.