What do you remember most from your childhood? Is it the lunch your mom packed you the first day of school in 5th grade or the time you fell off your bike when you took off the training wheels? Probably not. The memories which stand out are the family traditions you did year after year; the routines which became ingrained. They’re the trips you took which held special significance and you eagerly awaited every summer, or maybe the tradition of spending Christmas Eve with your entire extended family. Family traditions are memory making experiences which you’ll always hold dear and create a lasting way to pass along important traditions from generation to generation.
Creating traditions with your family builds positive family connections and bonds between parents and children and among siblings. The traditions and habits you create for your family will establish and reinforce your key values and interpersonal relationships.
The long-lasting memories of repetitive traditions bring a sense of comfort and especially to children, are something to look forward to year-after-year.
Traditions can be simple or more something larger for which you plan for on an annual basis, such as a vacation or summer trip.
Traditions of any size are important to your family and the relationships between every member of your family. As your children get older, the memories they hold onto from the traditions you build together from early childhood, will be long-lasting and something they continue to look forward to even when they have their own families.
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Do you have breakfast or dinner together every day as a family?
Whichever meal you’re able to sit down together at, (for us, its breakfast), create a habit of asking every person at the table what the high and low of their day was (dinner) or what the high and low of the day before way (breakfast) and what they’re excited about in the coming days.
What was the highlight and low point, peak and pit, mountain or valley… whichever way you choose to ask, when everyone around the table shares what the best part and the hardest part of their day was, you’ll find that family members have a better understanding, support, closeness and empathy for one another.
This is an everyday journal that asks one questions for each day of the year (tracking over three years). Go around the table and record the responses for every family member. We do this in our house and it’s so fun to go around the table and hear everyone’s different responses, but I love to look through the responses and see the silly responses and see the evolution of their responses as time goes on. The Q&A Three-Year Journal is fun while you’re doing it, but also a precious keepsake too.
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL TRADITIONS
Each first day of school is the start of a new period in your child’s life and something to celebrate! Help your children be excited and look forward to the first day of school with traditions you start at home.
Traditions may include a first day of school picture, first day of school questionnaire that you repeat year after year, a special treat in their lunch or something special after school like ice cream or eating out at a restaurant together.
Not only do the first day of school traditions help you document your child being one year older and reaching another milestone in their lives, but it also makes them excited for school and provides them with something to look forward to after school, especially if they have first day jitters or a hard time adjusting back after a great summer break.
On each family member’s birthday, start a little tradition of either letting them choose their favorite dish or restaurant for dinner, breakfast or lunch, or activity or place to go for their birthday.
Is there something that person wants to do every year like go skiing, take in a movie, head out for a hike or to the pool to celebrate?
One of my favorite birthday traditions is for a parent to take the child out on a birthday date. My husband will take our daughter out for her birthday and I will take my son out for his birthday, which also provides us a great opportunity to have one-on-one time with our children without being interrupted by siblings or a meltdown with our youngest.
My husband and daughter will get dressed up and head out to a dinner location of her choosing. While we don’t do this on their actual birthday because we have a different tradition on that day, we’ll take them out to dinner sometime during the week of their birthay. They both love getting dressed up and going out for father/daughter and mother/son time.
ONE HOLIDAY TRADITION THAT STICKS
Whether you go all out on Christmas, Easter, Halloween, the 4th of July or another holiday (or all of them!), making lasting traditions around that holiday will make it even more memorable and meaningful to your family.
For example, every year around Christmas, our family has a handful of things we do together leading up to the 25th. December is a very magical month for our family and the kids already know about our traditions so it’s fun to hear them talk about them and be excited.
We visit our local Zoo after dark when it’s lit with Christmas lights and have hot chocolate, ride the Santa train in pajamas, adopt a family to gift presents to for the holidays which means they shop for other kids and wrap their presents to give away. They make ornaments, decorate the tree, bake cookies and we host Christmas Day dinner at our house with both sides of our family.
It sounds like a lot, but the kids love all the activities and we love the time we spend together.
A LETTER TO YOUR CHILDREN EACH YEAR
Spend an hour each year to write each of your children a meaningful letter on their birthday.
Talk about the milestones they’ve reached, funny sayings, memorable experiences, quirks and characteristics and what you’ve felt and noticed over the past year and how much your child means to you. Keep all of the letters to your child in their baby book, in a place where you keep all of their art and school work, or in a safe location to be able to save and store them and gift to your children when they are a certain age or they’re ready.
I also love the idea of journaling for your children. This is where you keep a journal that you record in occasionally throughout the years. I have friends that keep quote books with just funny sayings and things that their kids said every week.
Throw it in your purse or diaper bag and take it with you to be sure to record all the funny things you kids say while you’re on the go. This is the Quotable Kid Book I carry with me to make sure I never forget to record the funny things my three kids say.
This is a great letter holding book to gift to your children when they’re older. You can post-date your letter and save your memories.
ANNUAL ADVENTURE OR TRIP
Taking an annual trip or adventure doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will be worthwhile when you spend time together as a family away from work, electronics, and everyday obligations.
A day hike, camping (even camping in your backyard), a road trip, taking in a baseball game, getting away for 3 or 4 days to visit a new spot every summer or if you can save for a big trip, a full vacation out of state or to the beach once your children are a little older to appreciate the experience, will be something they won’t soon forget.
One of our favorite ways to stay connected, but to also get out of the house and exercise with our kids is to take a family walk first thing in the morning or before bedtime.
We talk about the day ahead or behind us, let them get some energy out and sometimes if our walk is before bedtime, we do it with the kids in their pajamas. It’s also nice to also get out of the house and reconnect with your spouse while your kids are strapped in the stroller or riding ahead on their bikes.
Do you have a bedtime routine that you and your children look forward to?
Children thrive on routine and sticking to a bedtime routine not only helps your entire house stay on track but helps them wind down for the evening and know what to expect during the last part of the day.
Our bedtime routine includes dinner, playtime or a family walk, bath time, books, cuddles in bed where we talk about our day and lots of goodnight hugs and kisses. We also have a special phrase that we share with the kids before they go to sleep, do you have one too?
While you may not think of having a family safe word as a tradition, it is just as important as any tradition you create for your family. Talking to your children about safety topics and safe rules should be a habit that allows you to speak often and keep an open line of communication.
A safe word is a special word you and your children agree to use when they need to tell you something important about a person or uncomfortable situation. They may use the safe word when they don’t feel comfortable talking to your outright about what has happened, don’t know how to approach the conversation or speaking out it in front of other people.
This safe word is an indication to you that something serious has happened or was attempted and requires your immediate attention to discuss the matter and that your children need your help.
Sometimes children have a hard time discussing and explaining their feelings or the actions that have happened because they’re embarrassed, ashamed, afraid of consequences or your reaction and a safe word means that they may be more comfortable coming to you to share with a safe word and that you’ll understand what they may be trying to tell you and can lead them into further discussions.
Our family chose a safe word that our children understand cannot be used unless they need to share with us something about safety topics, strangers and unsafe touching that we’ve talked about with them. It’s not a word that we use every day so it will stick out to both our children and to us, as parents.
What family traditions to you have that you’ll pass along to your kids, already do or hope to start?
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