Ties that Bind: Creating Family Traditions for the Holidays

Family All Together At Christmas DinnerWhat are your favorite holiday traditions? Do you host a Turkey Bowl football game on Thanksgiving? Decorate cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve? Maybe you prepare a special holiday dish that honors your heritage, or you invite your extended family over for a meal.

Chances are, these holiday traditions make up some of your favorite memories. Traditions are a powerful bonding force in families; they give us a sense of identity and belonging, and bring us closer together. Often, it is through traditions that families pass down values and cultural customs to the next generation. And, of course, there is something comforting in the predictability of following traditions each year.

So what do you do when your partner or child isn’t interested in your beloved traditions? It may be hurtful to find that a family member has no regard for the time-honored routines that are so much a part of how we define ourselves. But remember, our traditions stem from our history, and, as much as they love us, our partners and children didn’t share those experiences. Make sure to express to your family why the custom is important to you, and how good it makes you feel to have them participate.

You can also create new traditions together, or let your family members add their unique twist to your existing ones! Some compromise will be required, so encourage everyone to listen respectfully to other’s ideas, and keep in mind the following suggestions:

1)      Choose something meaningful. Think first about the purpose of your tradition. What are you hoping to accomplish? Identify each family member’s favorite memories and activities, and start from there.

2)      Keep traditions age-appropriate. Your toddler sons probably aren’t quite ready to join the Turkey Bowl, and your teenage daughter might not want to visit Santa at the mall anymore. Keep your children’s ages and stages in mind during the holiday season. As time goes on, some traditions may need to be retired, or your children may be ready for traditions you shelved while they were young. With that being said, don’t let sullen teenagers derail family traditions. Even if they feel “above” participating right now, in a few years they may find themselves looking forward to their childhood rituals.

3)      Keep it simple. Elaborate traditions sometimes get out of hand, and cause more stress than family bonding. Don’t feel pressure to create a perfect family experience—just relax and enjoy your time together. A simple tradition, like reading a favorite holiday book to the kids, may have more meaning and joy than cooking a gourmet five-course meal every year.

Why not make Relationship Education a part of your traditions, too? As a couple or as a family, attend a class at least once a year, or read a Relationship Education book together. Strengthening your relationships so that your family consistently enjoys the holidays together can be one of the most rewarding traditions of all.

Want to learn more?

We want to hear from you! What are some of your favorite family traditions? How have your traditions brought you closer as a family?

Written by Shelece McAllister–Copyright © 2013 Healthy Relationships California

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