(2.5-minute read) What better way to spend a holiday than with family. Take a minute and think about how you spent your holidays as a child. Odds are you have lots of wonderful memories of the traditions your family created (i.e. finding the matzoh on Passover or enjoying a traditional ham dinner for Easter). What you recall tells a story about your family, like your history and religious / cultural beliefs.
But holidays don’t have to be the only time to create traditions and rituals that children will remember. There are endless opportunities to make everyday events and milestones special. And the end result is so much more than creating fond memories.
In the New York Times bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler, sites a study that showed that “kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.”
It’s experiences, not possessions, that bring people more happiness, according to research. Why? Cornell psychology professor, Thomas Gilovich, says it’s because people are “less likely to measure the value of their experiences by comparing them to those of others.” (although with everyone sharing images of their experiences on social media, comparisons now seem inevitable). Establishing traditions strengthen family connection and unity, while instilling a sense of comfort and security. These rituals say, this who we are and what we value.
While creating traditions/rituals is priceless, it doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag.
Here are a dozen fun & simple family traditions/rituals:
Daily Connection Traditions:
- Create your own family greeting: a secret handshake, special hug or kiss that is used each time you leave one another, or when you come back together.
- Share information about your day with each person stating the best and worst part.You can add something you’re grateful for, along with something nice you did for someone and something nice someone did for you. This is not only a great opportunity to learn about each other’s days, but also to teach valuable life lessons. Can’t make it happen daily, commit to weekly and go from there.
Weekly Connection Traditions:
- Family theme night, like game night and/or dinner together (i.e. Taco Tuesdays), discuss/read about current events or specific topics.
- Weekend physical activities. Get your bodies moving together as a family. Walk the dog, go for a bike ride or play a game of Frisbee. Break things up with some more challenging activities. A ritual like this not only enhances physical and mental well-being, it instills the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
- Creative family projects. Whether it’s a meal, art project, dance or writing a song/poem. It’s a great way to get creative and use your imagination.
- Mindfulness/meditation moments: What better way to start or end the week than with a little breather – together as a family. Explore various ways to decompress, whether it be holding hands and sitting in silence, listening to classical music or a guided mediation. Discuss which practice each person prefers.
Annual & Life Changes Traditions:
- Write letters to your future selves in which you set goals, make predictions and simply envision the future. Then see if you made it happen.
- Make a family time capsule every five or so years. Each person in the family puts in a few things, like notes, pics of favorite celebs, stuffed animals, etc. And when you create the next one, spend time going through the old one(s).
- Collect the same thing from each place you vacation. Maybe it’s a hotel room key, rocks where you paint the name of the city. Or buy the same thing like postcards or keychains. When you look back on the collection and see all the names of the places you’ve been, it’ll spark memories of those trips as well. Extra idea: pin all your travels on a map!
- Create back to school traditions. When you receive your child’s school picture, put it in a frame but leave the prior years picture. When you put in the new one, go through the old ones and reminisce. Better yet, make some notes on the back of each and discuss. If your child is the type to get anxious before school, go through the pictures and talk about how good the year turned out.
- Family volunteer service. Commit to giving back to society by giving of your time and/or money to those less fortunate. Rotate who takes the lead each month – ensuring everyone has a chance to give back to something they’re passionate about.
- Birthday compliments. Each person can celebrate the birthday of their family member by sharing kind words about them. What you love, admire, etc. Now who doesn’t feel good when they hear how amazing they are?